Dealing With the Stress of Unexpected Changes
By Mimi Greenwood Knight
You’ve undergone life changes you didn’t sign up for or expect. But here you are. When it happened to our family, we made a lot of mistakes. But we also learned some strategies that helped, and continue to help, as we move forward.
On November 6, 2014, our home phone rang at 3:00 in the morning and life for our family was never the same. An hour before, our dynamic, world-moving daughter had a freak accident which resulted in a traumatic brain injury. In that instant, our Molly was yanked out of a life where she was embarking on her senior year of college, doing an internship, playing in her college jazz band, starring in a play on campus, and rocking the dean’s list—and into the realities of an injury which will affect her, to some degree, for the rest of her life.
Emotions aren’t good or bad. They just are.
It’s natural to have feelings of sadness after a major life change, to grieve over the loss of something, to feel angry about your situation, to place blame. Allow yourself all of the above. But don’t indulge in that place of anger, pity, and blame for too long or you’ll find yourself unable to adapt to your change. Grieve for a season, then move toward hope and of growth.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
We all want to look strong and fearless. But in times of great change, it’s necessary—and beneficial—to allow the people we trust to see us scared, vulnerable, weak, and in need of help. Showing vulnerability with the right people is okay. It’s only then that they can help with your stress and pain. Vulnerability is part of the human condition and can be your first step toward growth and healing.
Ask for the help you need.
Sadly, after a major life change, you might not hear from people you considered close friends because they simply don’t know what to say, what to do, or how to be your friend within your new reality. Being able to clearly articulate what you need gives people a sense of relief. Empower friends and family by asking for the specific help you need then allowing them to provide it.
Know you can and will adapt.
The human ability to adapt is astounding. You’ll be amazed at your own ability to solve problems you never expected to face and do things in ways you never expected. Necessity really is the mother of invention. Trust that you can and will adapt, then allow yourself to do so.
Embrace your growth as a person.
Going through a change transforms the way you see life and deal with obstacles. You’ll never be the same again, and that can be a good thing. Ask yourself, “What am I meant to learn from this? How am I meant to grow? How can I become a better person because of this? How can I use this to help others?” The core of who you are will remain the same. But through a major life change, your mission, purpose, and values can become honed and refined.