At one time or the other, each one of us will have to go through a major transition in life. It could be the death of a loved one, a divorce, retirement, being laid off at work, the physical separation from us of our loved ones, or a hundred other things that can throw us for a loop.
How can we handle such challenges, on a practical level? In their book, “Life Changes: Growing Through Personal Transitions”, authors Sabina A. Spencer and John D. Adams give us a compact breakdown of what we can expect along the way.
Here, in my words, are the essential aspects of each of these stages.
1) Losing Focus– Here we feel like we have been hit over the head by a cosmic baseball bat. We feel dazed, overwhelmed, unable to even believe that such a thing has happened to us.
2) Minimizing the Impact– The name of the game here is “denial.” As a natural defense mechanism, we try to pretend that are fine, OK, and that everything is under control.
3 The Pit— The denial is no longer working. We feel the fullness of our pain which may drive us either to our knees or to the bottle or to the jail or to the cemetery.. We cannot talk ourselves out of the pain, either.
4) Letting Go of the Past– By the grace of God, we are challenged and sometimes succeed in forgiving everyone in our lives who have ever hurt us. More challenging yet is to forgive one self. That is what our authors say. I would add that I think it would be wise to put this step on hold until we have surrendered to a Higher Power.
5) Testing the Limits– As we let go and let God, amazingly we begin to see and feel the light at the end of the tunnel. We feel hope. We feel increasingly confident “that all things will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”
6) Searching for Meaning– Now and only now can we step back and reflect on what has happened to us and what its meaning might be. We begin to see the big picture and we realize that some hidden hand was present all along. We realize that a Higher Power seems to be driving things and that something positive can arise even out of pain.
7) Integration– After realizing that there was meaning in our lives all along and that life always holds the upper hand, we humbly alter our attitude towards life. We have learned some lessons, paid our dues, and we are somehow the wiser and maybe even a better person as a result of our ordeal.
Many ordeals can produce either a cynic or a saint, depending on our perspective.
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