Transitioning to a new life stage is difficult even if you chose to make the move. No matter how exciting or perfect your new life is, you’ll still find it difficult to transition. This is normal, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re having trouble settling in.
I received a message from one of my “She Blossoms” readers, asking for help transitioning to a new stage of life. Here’s something like what she said:
“My husband and I recently moved to a new city and have an entirely new lifestyle. I am having a very hard time accepting what’s going on in my life. We sold the house we lived and raised our kids in for 30 years, we gave away our dog and cat, and left the church we’ve been attending for more than a decade. We made this decision because my husband recently retired, and we want to start a new life while we can. We moved into an RV resort in a beautiful RV and everything you could ever want. But I’m having tough time letting go of my home. I loved my life. I know I’m being a big baby but the pain is overwhelming. Do you have advice on how to transition to a new stage of life?”
I’m currently writing Chapter 2 of my new book, which is tentatively titled Rise: How to Move Forward When Your Heart Keeps Looking Back. Part of my research involves reading lots of books about adapting to change and transitioning to a new stage of life — and my favorite book so far is Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David. I’ll link to it at the end of this article. In the meantime, however, I want to share what I’m learning about emotional agility because it directly relates to my reader’s question about how to peacefully transition to a new stage of life.
3 Tips for Transitioning to a New Stage of Life
First, stop telling yourself that you’re a big baby! You’re going through a serious and major life transition – and that requires grieving your losses. Yes, you’re in a great place and the RV park is safe, comfortable, and perfect for you. Yes, you chose to make this move. You may even have known that it would be difficult for you to transition to a new stage of life. Maybe you prepared for the transition in different ways.
But you still have to allow yourself to say goodbye to your old life. This takes time, patience, and self-compassion. Give yourself the time and space you need to heal; don’t listen to anyone tell you that you’re a “big baby.” Don’t tell yourself that!
You are a kind, sensitive, smart woman who knows she needs to let go of a life she loved. Do not allow anyone to take this away from you! I don’t know how you feel about rehoming your dogs, but I have no doubt it’s part of the grief of letting go. Read How to Cope With Rehoming Your Dog for help with that loss.
1. Give your grief a name
One example of how to deal with the dark edges of grief, emotional troubles, or even minor embarrassment comes from Emotional Agility.
“A single mother is tormented by a shadow monster (Babbadook) that emerges from one of her son’s storybooks,” writes Dr David. “It eventually becomes clear that the monster represents her feelings about motherhood and the resentment she felt toward her son since her husband, the boy’s father, was killed while driving her to the hospital to give birth.
Thus, the monster also represents her grief. In the end, she disempowers this big, scary bundle of unwelcome emotions not just by confronting it, but also by letting the Babbadook live in the basement, where she feeds and cares for it. In other words, she learns to tame and accommodate it without letting it dictate her life.”
Your movement toward transitioning to a new stage of life begins with showing up. You don’t have to cope with all the emotional grief and pains that are hurting you. But, you must face up to, make peace with, and find an honest and open way to live with your grief and troubles. Simply facing up to your grief about transitioning to this new stage of life can strip it of its power.
If you were to give your “transition grief” a name, what would it be? Stop calling yourself a crybaby, and start learning how to live with the grief you feel.
2. Use your words
I’m part of a Christian authors Facebook page; one of the writers asked for help with the waiting period. He hopes to transition from “wannabe writer” to “published book author” — but in the meantime, he has lots of stages to go through!
Here’s what I told him about this transition period:
“What are the top 4 or 5 feelings you’re grappling with? I’d write through them. Figure out what you feel, why you feel that way, and how that feeling is affecting you and your relationship with God. Going through the feelings is the first step to setting them aside. And, if you write and talk to God about those feelings, He’ll fill your heart, spirit, and soul with the words you really need to hear and the actions you really need to take while you’re waiting for His plan to unfold.”
I have the same advice for you! How do you transition to a new stage of life? By giving your feelings a name. When you use your words to define and understand your feelings, your emotions will start to settle. This will help you get a handle on them.
So, what specific words would you use to describe your emotions? Write them down, and describe them.
3. Accept what exists right now
“One of the great paradoxes of human experience is that we can’t change ourselves or our circumstances until we accept what exists right now,” writes Dr David in Emotional Agility. “Acceptance is the prerequisite for change. This means giving permission for the world to be as it is, because it’s only when we stop trying to control the universe that we make peace with it. We still don’t like the things we don’t like; we’ve just ceased to be at war with them. And once that war is over, change can begin.”
You can’t rebuild a city while it’s been bombarded by warfare. In the Bible, Jesus said a house divided cannot stand against itself. This means that you can’t heal and learn how to transition to a new stage of life until you learn to live with your feelings, name your grief, and have compassion for yourself.
Show yourself more warmth, kindness, and forgiveness. You’re facing a major life change, and it requires tremendous emotional and spiritual resources! Allow yourself to accept that transitioning to a new stage of life takes time.
Help Transitioning to a New Life Stage
“Emotional agility is about getting along with life,” writes Susan David in Emotional Agility – Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. “It involves moving toward clear, challenging, yet achievable goals that you pursue not because you think you have to, or because you’ve been told to, but because you want to, because they’re important to you.”
In another part of the book, David says that emotional agility is about learning how to stop thinking in the same old, automatic way. Thinking the way you always thought won’t help you transition to a new stage of life! Instead, be sensitive to where you are. Respond to the world you’re in now, and learn how to let go of the life you had back then.
Know that you’ll transition through this stage and settle in to this new life eventually. You’ll always miss your old life, but you’ll soon embrace your new life with all your arms and legs.
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts on transitioning to a new stage of life! I’d love to hear from you.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.