When my mom passed away a little over three years ago, I tried a lot of tactics to deal with the grief. I distracted myself, I exercised, I spent a lot of time in the quiet allowing myself to cry. I even tried an antidepressant but not even a pill helps when you’re grieving the loss of someone so pivotal in your life.
Not too long after she passed, I went through a divorce, moved into a new house and started a new job. According to studies, life’s most stressful events are:
- Death of a loved one
- Major illness
- Job loss
Considering three of the five were going on in my life within a year’s time, I should’ve been more gentle with myself, but instead, I became frustrated at my inability to stay positive and hopeful. As someone who’s generally very bright and optimistic, the constant melancholy felt jarring to my heart and psyche. As the adage goes, “The only way out is through,” so I just kept pushing forward. The boys and meeting Matthew, my current boyfriend, were two bright spots in an otherwise very dark time period.
Fast forward to one year ago, January 2019. Time and patience had helped a lot. I was feeling more in control and ahead of my feelings but still, there was more change happening. The boys’ dad remarried and we sold the family home so there was more adjustment and adapting, more emotions (both mine and the boys) to manage.
Finally, I decided to find a therapist. I wasn’t sure if it was going to help, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. Lucky for me, I landed on the most amazing therapist I could’ve hoped for. She’s been paramount in my overall healing. She’s taught me how to respond as opposed to react. She’s taught me to see myself and a situation from an objective angle so I’m not constantly tangled up in feelings. And honestly, there’s just something freeing about talking openly with someone and knowing it’s fully confidential.
Meanwhile, I started listening to an Audible book called Maybe You Should Talk to Sometime. Therapist and writer, Lori Gottleib, tells the stories of her patients and experiences in her work. Listening to her, I’ve learned more strategies and also why therapy can be so helpful during times of change, whether good or bad.
We all struggle with change because with change, comes loss. As Gottleib says, “…change and loss travel together. We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”
Gottleib also shares the phases of change, which I want to pass on to you. Sometimes knowing is half the battle and if you know what the phases of change are, it may help.
Phases of Change
- Precontemplation (denial)
- Contemplation (considering maybe it’s time for a change)
- Preparation (preparing oneself logistically and emotionally for the change)
- Action (making the change)
- Maintenance (maintaining the change and adapting/embracing the new)
Sometimes change takes weeks and sometimes it takes years. Either way, one must transition through all of the phases. Understanding what stage you’re in can be helpful in developing strategies and techniques to cope.
As the New Year is underway, I feel more hopeful and happy. than I have in years. We’re a quick-fix society. We want a Google search or a pharmaceutical drug to remedy any situation but the reality is, humans are humans. We need time and help to fully heal.
Saying you’re seeing a therapist can be taboo in the modern world, and I’m not sure why that is. We should be proud to say we sought the help we need instead of keeping everything in or trying to use family and friends as our “therapists.” I’m never ashamed to say I’m seeing a therapist. In fact, when I see people I love truly struggling with something, I hear myself say, “I think you need a therapist.”
Life is never going to be easy. There will always be trials and forks in the road, but if I’ve learned anything over the past three years, it’s how to settle into a moment. Whatever you’re struggling with, I hope you take action toward change. We need to remember we have this one and only life and we’ll never get each day back.
So, good luck. Truly looking at yourself in the mirror ins’t easy, but it’s so worth it.