Life Transitions

Life transitions have a definite beginning and ordinarily a definite ending. They can be planned or unexpected, positive or negative. They include a job change, divorce, death, moving, birth, marriage. The model of the stages of grief can be applied to peopleís reactions during a life transition. They are not definite stages per say in that they are not necessarily experienced in order as well as being mutually exclusive. Some of the stages are felt simultaneously. Stages are recycled as part of oneís own healing process as well as due to external events or cues. Anniversary dates, pictures, running into certain people can trigger returning to another earlier stage. Even the positive transitions such as moving or starting a family involve losses. Something is gained and other things are mourned.

The initial stage is filled with much confusion and emotional pain. This time is also referred to as shock. The entire magnitude of the situation is too much to take in so it is absorbed mentally in installments until the person is able to get the full picture. There is alternating sadness and despair as well as some relief and positive feelings. Eventually moods become more stabilized and the personís previously learned coping skills are utilized. At this point they have an awareness of the future and their anger at the transition surfaces. There is a loss of self esteem and much sadness and dread. Depression occurs as the loss is fully experienced.

The eventual goal is to let go of the previous person, place, situation, and allow a new person, job etc to be enjoyed. The loss needs to be sufficiently accepted in order to move toward setting new goals and taking initiative to rebuild oneís life. How someone adjusts to transitions is dependent on a number of variables. Their own constitution plays a roll. Past transitions could be a source of strength and confidence building that were survived successfully. Previous losses or a number of losses/transitions happening simultaneously can overwhelm the person. Having a good support system and using it can mitigate the stresses that are experienced.

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© Patricia McKee M.A.


Patricia McKee M.A.

University Village Area, Seattle, WA