The Emotions of Change: grieving your losses

“So you’re telling me that in order to take the next step forward, I have to give up WHAT?!?”
It’s the least favorite part of change for all of us… the stuff we have to give up. Whether it’s as simple as comforts and conveniences, or as complicated as relationships, there is a good chance that creating positive change is going to result in some losses. Even if you take the time prior to making a big change to examine these losses and weigh them against the gains, you’re still bound to be caught off guard by at least a few surprise losses or by how strongly you feel the hit as you begin to release the losses.

Just so you know, it’s OK to feel sad. 
Even during an exciting time in your life full of hope, joy, and opportunity, it’s good to take a step back and grieve the things you are giving up. In fact, I think it’s imperative to do so. Grief is a very important process that we need to go through at different stages in life to maintain our emotional health and sanity. If you try to ignore your sadness, it will affect you in some other way and will likely cause you more problems.

When I decided to move from Phoenix to LA, I turned each loss into a new doubt about my decision. 
What if my 3 year old niece forgets who I am? Maybe this is the wrong decision.  What if I trade my spacious two bed, two bath apartment for a tiny one bedroom with a shared bathroom and then still can’t afford to eat out or go to yoga class? Maybe this is a stupid decision. What if my husband and I have to spend mid-sized holidays like 4th of July alone? Maybe we shouldn’t go.

It wasn’t until my husband pointed out that I wasn’t experiencing doubt but rather sadness, that I realized I needed to take a moment to first identify my losses and then to grieve them.  I am sad I will miss my 3 year old niece.  I am sad I won’t get to enjoy some of the luxuries I experience now.  I am sad I won’t see all of my extended family on every single holiday of the year as I used to.

My ungrieved losses were also turning into fears…and trust me I already have enough fears to go around, I definitely don’t need more!  Maybe my 3 year old niece needs me to have special place in her life or she will end up a mass murderer serving 25 to life by the time she turns 18!  Maybe my husband and I will grow to hate each other living in such close quarters and our anger will be compounded by our lack of exercise and not being able to afford to escape even to a night out at a restaurant and it will also end in murder!  Maybe all kinds of crazy resentments will spring up between my family and myself, only we will never spend enough time together to appropriately deal with them and people will start dying and I will be left with horrible guilt and sadness over our unresolved issues… or maybe more murder will happen!

As you can see, my sadness over the people and things I was distancing myself from turned into a obsessive fear of death and destruction (as well as an extra 10 lbs) because I didn’t recognize the truth behind the emotions I was experiencing and I refused to acknowledge that some of my decisions were going to cause some sadness for both myself and others.

I know you think you can be all clever and trick your emotional being, but you can’t.
Have fun with the aftermath if you don’t believe me… and take down the number for Weight Watchers the next time Jennifer Hudson is on TV giving it to you because you’re going to need it. I recommend that the next time you find yourself going through major change, take a second, whether you are experiencing strong emotions or not (since so many of us are good at numbing ourselves), and make a list of the things your are losing. Count your losses and allow yourself to be sad about each one. And whenever a negative emotion of any kind presents itself, stop and ask yourself if you are feeling the appropriate emotion about it or if you are using some sort of defense mechanism to keep yourself from feeling the things you are designed and in desperate need to feel. Here’s a tissue, now get to work.