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Why Exciting Transitions Can Also Cause Sadness

The Grief Recovery Institute defines grief as the conflicting feelings caused by the end or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Conflicting feelings may include feeling sadness, anger, and relief at the same time, or any variation of emotion.

When I first read this definition of grief, it resonated with several changes I have experienced throughout in my life.  I will never forget the day I graduated with my degree; I walked onto the stage and embraced what was one of the proudest moments if my life. Although I felt proud and happy, I could not ignore my feelings of sadness and grief.  I thought to myself, “What is wrong with me, that I am feeling sad on one of the best days in my life!?” I realized in that moment that I was saying goodbye to the “student life” that I had lived for five years and the lifestyle that came with it.

There are many milestones and special moments we may experience throughout our lives that may bring about several emotions at one time. Please know that this I completely normal and natural and that there is nothing wrong with you.

Some common experiences that often create conflicting feelings within us, include:

Having a baby: Having a baby is one of the most beautiful experiences in life and it also brings about a massive lifestyle change. Many women and men express feeling a loss of freedom, loss of independence, loss of identity, loss of connection in their marriage, and a general loss of lifestyle. Some parents also choose to stay home with their child, experiencing a loss of job or career. It is important to acknowledge that this significant life transition naturally creates a number of emotions within us, and that it is important that we process and share these emotions with trusted others.

Retirement: At 21 my bank called me and wanted to set up an appointment to open up an RRSP. I remember thinking, “That is crazy, I am only 21, and I am not thinking about retirement yet!” During our early and middle adulthood we spend our years working and saving for retirement. Many of us fantasize about what it will be like one day when we can spend all of our free time travelling and pursuing our passions and hobbies. What we aren’t generally prepared for with retirement, is the loss of purpose, loss of meaning, loss of identity, and loss of finances that many often experience. Again, this is completely normal and natural. Any time we experience a change in a familiar pattern of behavior (ie. Having a routine; going to work every day), we grieve. So it’s no question why several people who retire end up going back to their job, get a bridge job, or begin volunteering to restore their sense of purpose and meaning again.

Dietary changes: In today’s society we hear more and more about specialty diets such as Vegan, Paleo, Gluten- Free, Dairy Free etc. For some, making dietary changes can be a rewarding and exciting time because you are taking the steps to live a healthier life for your body. I know when I decided to be vegetarian I was so happy with how my body felt and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Unfortunately, these changes can also make us feel isolated, alone, and afraid of being judged by others. It is normal to feel alone and frustrated when you do not have as many options for eating out, or you go to someone’s house for family dinner and they haven’t considered your dietary needs. Any major change we experience can bring about new challenges in our lives, so it is important to address these with a trusted friend or family member and to know that your feelings are valid and normal.

Starting a business: Starting a new business can bring about several emotions within us; some of which we may not even anticipate, including excitement, fear, and overwhelm. You may be pursuing your greatest dream, but don’t realize the significant amount of time, commitment, and money it takes to start and grow a successful business. The loss of time, loss of comfort, and loss of security leaving a corporate or 9-5 job can be very stressful and overwhelming. This leap into business and entrepreneurship although very rewarding is also very challenging. These feelings are normal and natural given the circumstances and should be shared with a trusted individual or mentor.

These are just a few examples of some of the happiest and most exciting times in our lives that can also create feelings of grief.

If you are struggling to work through your conflicting feelings caused by any major change or transition in your life, we are equipped with the emotional and intellectual tools to support you in moving forward successfully.

Contact our office at 780-288-8011 for your free telephone consultation and to book an appointment. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for more information about our services and specialties.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Psychology Intern and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

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