Four Lifelines in Oceans of Change

Jan 19, 2012


It may be necessary, but I don’t enjoy it. I like order. Predictably. Schedules. Ask my parents and they’ll tell you my childhood bedroom was never in disarray: the bed always made, every knick-knack perfectly placed, and the clothes hung neatly in the closet.

I thrive on routine, and a calendar to keep track of it. Surprises? No, thank you. I prefer to know what’s coming. I almost always know what I’m getting for Christmas, and reading the last few pages of a novel is inevitable. I try not to, promise myself I won’t. But I can’t help it. I MUST KNOW.

Which is why I’m chuckling (one of those insane types) at the thought of our family suddenly raising three more children.

Now, I’m not one to question God, but … who am I kidding? I’m ABSOLUTELY one to question God. Or at least ask Him the burning question I MUST KNOW the answer to:

What were You thinking?!?!

Change is about as comfortable for me as pantyhose and family reunions. Adapting to huge life changes — like my son’s graduation from highschool, moving from our family home, a job change, or, YES, expanding our family by nearly double — is excruciating. There’s a good chance a padded room and mashed potatoes are in my near future.

Except I’ve finally learned change is inevitable. And after 40 years, I’m happy to announce I now adapt to change without quite as much trauma. Or drama.

This time around, I’ve implemented a few safeguards to help me and the rest of our family adjust to another major life change. If you’re reading this blog, you’re alive. And if you’re alive, there’s a pretty good chance change has colored your past and will impact your future. Who knows? You may be in the throes of monumental change right now.

Feel like you’re going under? Here are a few lifelines to keep you afloat until you learn to swim in your new ocean:

  • Grieve the old. Change signals a loss of some kind. Even good change requires relinquishing something familiar or comfortable. About a month ago, my counselor/mentor gave me the single best piece of advice for adapting to monumental life change: “Let yourself grieve, Michele. It’s okay.” Although many wonderful things will come from this change, we’ve had to release a former way of life. I had to give some things up, and we’ve had to take new things on. Some of those losses are significant. But we lessened their sting by giving ourselves permission to grieve them. Not to dwell on the losses, but to acknowledge them. Only then are we free to embrace the beauty of the new.
  • Accept offers of help. Major life change is usually too big to wrestle down solo. It requires the presence and assistance of others. Over the past few months, we’ve received second-hand toys, clothes and beds. Two friends in particular made it a habit to tell me again and again, “You’ve got this! You can do this!” Another friend sent me an email almost every day for a week asking, “How are you doing? I’m thinking about you, praying for you.” Others offered childcare help or the gift of their laughter and presence. All of these things have made a huge difference in our ability to adapt to change. But it started with us recognizing we cannot do it alone.
  • Get plenty of rest. Adapting to change takes a physical toll. Adjusting mentally, physically, emotionally is exhausting. Whether you’re moving or changing careers, anticipate a drain. It may be energizing at moments, but learning something new will also require more of you. Allow extra time to rest, refresh, regenerate. The extra attention you give to taking care of yourself will help you adapt.
  • Be generous with grace. I’m a recovering perfectionist, and the temptation is to think “You have to figure this all out right now!” Nearly every day I remind myself (often out loud), “One day at a time, Michele. Just take it one day at a time.” My ordered, scheduled self wants everything to feel comfortable. Like NOW. But adjusting to major life change takes time — for everyone involved. Breathe. Forgive. Allow grace to be the pillow on which everyone can fall, including yourself. You won’t do it right the first time, or the fifth time. But you’ve got this. You can do it!

What kind of change are you facing right now? And strategies have helped you adapt to it?


  1. Alyssa Santos

    I love this short-list of adjusting to change with less drama/trauma. I am 41 and was in a really bad accident with my family last summer. We miraculously (i don’t say that lightly) all lived, and my kids were nearly unscathed. But I took the brunt of the injuries and my life has changed radically. I am nearing six months of climbing out of my injuries. Your four points of accepting major life changes are spot-on!

    • Michele

      Somehow I missed your comment, Alyssa. I apologize for taking so long to reply! Wow … I’m incredibly thankful that you and your family are alive and well. But I have no doubt life has completely changed for you. I had a medical diagnosis a little over a year ago, and it became a demarcation point: Life before. And life after. Everything changed. Sounds like you’re in the same boat. I’m glad to know these four lifelines fit your scenario, too. Please keep me posted on your progress!


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