Tips for Transition: Helpfulness for a Major Move
In a few days, I’ll celebrate my 1 ½ year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles (I’ll also celebrate my birthday, but who cares about that). LA was my fifth city in six years and was the most difficult move of them all. As a nod to those torrential days (and because I know a lot of people in big life transitions right now) I wanted to write a little list of things that helped me through the process, in hopes it might help someone else. Here goes…
#1. Give Yourself Grace
One of the most helpful things someone said to me, when I was loading my car between sobs and slices of day-old pizza, was, “Moving is as traumatic as losing a loved-one.” This phrase allowed me to cut myself some slack and not add anger at myself to the other chaotic emotions. Instead of telling myself to get it together and stop crying, I just let the tears flow. After all, if I were grieving for the death of a loved one, I wouldn’t be angry at myself for being in pain. I’d give myself time. I’d give myself space. I’d cry a lot. I’d feel a lot of things that didn’t make sense and I wouldn’t be able to explain it to anybody else. I’d only talk to people who felt safe, and I might stay away from people who didn’t. I’d give myself a good year to process—maybe even longer.
#2. You Can Feel Two Sets of Emotions at the Same Time
When you’re going from one place in your journey to another, no matter how excited you are about the next season, there is bound to be a lot of grieving for the old place. It doesn’t mean you’re less excited—it just means you’re feeling two sets of emotions at the same time. Humans are highly complicated beings with a high capacity for feelings. We are capable of feelinga lot at one time. So when you’re feeling happy and excited, don’t crowd out your excitement with Eeyore-type thoughts of, “Well, I’m just going to feel depressed tomorrow.” Let yourself be happy and celebrate. It doesn’t mean you’re grieving is any less real.
And if people ask you, “are you doing better?” feel free to say, “I’m feeling good right now.” But don’t feel pressured to keep it all together just because you have one good day.
Also, don’t feel pressured to just be an Eeyore. It’s okay to laugh and enjoy things. You’re not betraying your grief if some happiness seeps in.
#3. Maybe Take a Break from the Booz
I noticed alcohol made things worse. When you’re in a state of high emotion, it might feel like a glass of wine or two is numbing the pain and helping you make it through. However, I realized I was a lot more angry and irritable when I was having a glass of wine every night, so I tried to cut it out for a little while. I think I tried to only have a drink once a week, but the effects were pretty dramatic so I eliminated it completely for a little while. But I’m always a fan of replacing old habits with new ones so…
#4. Try This
I’m a big night-exerciser, but I knew I needed those endorphins for the whole day. I started working out in the morning and winding down with yoga at night. It was very helpful. But the truth is, I did not want to exercise. I wanted to sleep and watch movies. Getting up a little earlier those first few mornings was not easy. But the results made it worth it.
#5. Talk to Someone
When I moved to LA, I knew no one. It’s one of the things that made this transition so difficult. There is no remedy for the grieving soul like the physical presence of someone who knows you. But if there is no one physically with you, get on the phone. Call your people. Call them all the time. If they get annoyed, they just won’t answer. So just keep calling and crying and letting someone else hear you and tell you it’s okay to be sad.
If it isn’t possible to talk to your people, I’d recommend finding a therapist or a spiritual advisor for a season. People who’ve lost a loved one often do this for the first few months, just to help them through the initial period of change. If you can manage it, let other people help you through.
#6. Serve Someone Else
“How are YOU doing?” I had to make myself say this. I was so miserable at times that it was super easy to wallow in myself and my pain. It was difficult to make the shift of caring for someone else, but pulling myself out of myself to listen to a friend’s woes, helped stem off self-pity that inevitably comes. This is actually a known, tried-and-true aid for overcoming depression. Getting our mind off our pain and carrying the burden for others.
That said, it’s okay to feel like you have nothing to give for a season (see #1).
#7. Pray Your Heart Out
Jesus knows the agony of loneliness and suffering. Sometimes, you’re so at the end of yourself that all you can do is cry out to God. Do. It.I’m so not a fan of waiting until we can speak “respectfully” until we can pray. There were some angry nights. There was weeping and the punching of pillows. In the midst of that, I claimed the verse “approach the throne of grace with boldness.” I freakin’ approached that throne. Over and over. I demanded answers, even though I didn’t get answers to some of those, “Why God?” exclamations. But I did get God. Or at least, a little glimpse of the character of a God who loves his children and does not let any pain go unredeemed. If you can’t do any of the others, don’t forget this one.
Have you ever undergone a move from one city to another? Have you ever undergone a major life transition?
What have been some ways you’ve cared for yourself?