Dr. Ben Bissell has a terrific presentation on Managing Change and Transitions.
Basically Bissell explains that when we face Significant Emotional Events (SEEs)–major life changes (personally in our lives or professionally)–we go through 5 stages:
– Shock (i.e. Denial)–I Can’t Believe it!
– Emotions (e.g. Anger)–How could this happen to me?
– Bargaining–Do we have to do it today?
– Depression (i.e. grief)—I can’t take it anymore!
– Acceptance–1) Intellectual–If that’s what they want! 2) Emotional–Ride the train or be run over by it.
When we have major life change, we can experience loss in terms of control, influence, respect, freedom, security, identity, competence, direction, relationship and resources–in essence, we are forced out of our comfort zone and must transition.
Since according to Biseell “all change produces loss (and fear), and all loss must be grieved, it is understandable why these stages of transition track to the Kubler-Ross model of the 5 stages of grief.
Bissell explains that getting through these stages is not quick and takes a minimum of one and a half years to make it all the way through the 5 stages–during which time, it’s normal to feel abnormal.
The problem is when you get stuck in one of these five stages, then you either:
– Get burned out and quit
– Act out and get difficult
– Become sick, physically or emotionally (e.g. migraines, chronic depression, etc.)
Some ways we can help people get through changes is to:
– Recognize and accept that these stages are normal and necessary.
– Give people a safe place to vent their feelings (i.e. low morale = unresolved anger).
– Increase information flow–when people are undergoing severe life change, you need to counter the tendency for distorted perceptions and help them see where they are going and how they will get there.
– Maintain other elements of stability and familiarity in the person’s life–this gives comfort.
– Protect your health–your body, your breathing, your pace of eating and living, and your sleep.
– Give yourself time and space to play, be silly, be foolish, unwind (or else you will pop).
Bissell recognizes that the pace of change is continually increasing and “technology is seeing to that.”
Therefore, there is an increased urgency to help people deal with change in healthy ways–working through the stages of transition.
However, from my perspective, when people suffer huge losses in their lives, they never really get over it. The loss is always there, even if it’s just behind the scenes rather than out front like the first year or so.
When it comes to loss, people can experience enormous pain, which gets engraved in their consciousness and memories, and we should not expect them to just get over it.
In other words, it’s okay to incorporate feelings of loss and grief into who we are–it is part of us and that is nothing to run from or fear.
Just like good events can having lasting positive impacts in our lives, so do severe disruptions and grief.
People will progress and continue to heal, but they will always feel what they feel–good and bad–and we should never take that away from them.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to LiquidNight)