Transitions got you down?

August 25th, 2015 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

“Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind.” – Fred Rogers


Transitions=Grief Process

This week and month are ones of transition for me. How about you? Transition is always, as Fred Roger said, a kind of loss. We had guests, for example, and now they are gone. I was quite sad when they left because they are wonderful people and we had great fun together.


Expats experience loss through transition quite often. The most simple kind is the above example: guests, family and friends, come and then go. But there are more: job transitions, moving, saying goodbye to old – or newly made – friends. Lots of times expat friends must suddenly move away. Sometimes we do not realize the goodbye has happened until after people are gone and we have to work backwards through the mourning process.


A matter of life, and death

Unfortunately, life happens to all of us, and that means death, as well. For me, I have been faced with death all summer. A friend suddenly lost his father this summer. My daughter’s colleague lost his mother in an accident last week. A dear friend lost her newborn daughter after less than 48 hours together last week. My dear neighbor is suffering from terminal cancer and we do not expect him to life till next year. and there are more situations I won’t recount here. These situations are heavy transitions; the mourning is much deeper, much longer.


We must work through the stages of grief as shown above in the infographic, based on the Kubler-Ross Model, so that we can really function well in life. This means actually facing the situation, the feelings of anger, disbelief, the deep sadness we might feel, so that we can begin to try and live again. My friends and neighbors have a tough road ahead of them, but I in my own way am also mourning with them. I feel anger at the injustice of a baby dying; I feel sadness for my daughter’s friend at the loss of his mother so early in life. Emotions are good; they are what make us human. We shouldn’t be afraid to cry with our friends who are mourning. In fact it may encourage them, help them feel that we are a “small part” of their grief process. Take your time and feel your feelings when you grieve a loss.


Lessons learned

The lesson for us as expats is that we, too, have to work through our grief. A lot of our anger that we experience may not really about the immediate situation, but might be about the grief of change: moving away from home, losing identity (especially for trailing spouses), having to say goodbye to yet another friend. These are a few good examples of reasons to stop and grieve. Then, of course, there is general transition that everyone experiences from time to time. Even those need to be worked through: change from school to work, or even a job promotion, or a change of work space.


Therefore, when you are surprised by your anger or sadness, stop and reflect. Work through the emotion and discover the reason, so that you might be a more effective, not a reactive, person. But remember that the transitions, as Mr. Rogers said, are also signs of growth, so be reassured.


Leave a Reply