When we moved to Orlando seven years ago, it was easily the most challenging move we’ve ever made (and we’ve made a lot of them). It took a few years for us as a family to settle into life in Central Florida. Our kids, 10 and 12 at the time, were in formal schooling for the first time; my husband was adjusting to a new level of leadership in our organization, and I was just trying to figure out where the grocery store was (as well as every soccer field in the greater Orlando area, thanks to our daughter’s love for the sport).
Out of that transition came my book, Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace. It’s the book I wish I’d had in all those changes we went through as a family.
If you’re new here, still figuring out how to thrive in this season, here are a few suggestions for navigating transition well:
- Call it hard where it is.
When change happens, it’s tempting to get busy and pretend everything’s okay. After all, we’re not supposed to complain, right? But there’s a difference between complaining and honesty. Honesty is just calling it what it is – and sometimes, it’s just plain hard. When we honestly state how something impacts us, we can invite others in to care for us. It’s the doorway to see the emotions stirring in us, what those emotions say about what is most important to us, and how we are responding to them.
- Examine your expectations.
We all carry expectations into new seasons, whether we realize it or not. Often, they’re based on how things worked in the previous place. It’s important to look at what expectations we have on ourselves and others and ask whether they are realistic. Sometimes, we need to be patient to see our needs be met; others, we need to be willing to let go. For our family, examining our expectations has been a way to trust God to meet our needs, rather than trying to scramble to make life happen a certain way.
- Give yourself space to grieve.
Grief isn’t much fun, but what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t go away if we just ignore it. While we don’t want to negatively compare our current situation with whatever we left behind, it’s important to honor our losses. We need to make space sometimes to let ourselves grieve who and what we miss. Doing this keeps our hearts open to receiving whatever we are given in this new season. (After all, if we miss something, it’s because we loved it. We want to be open to loving again.)
- Seek out community.
Five years into our time overseas, we were asked to relocate to Singapore. There, we started visiting a local church. We didn’t feel particularly invested until we were invited to join a Bible study of several other couples who had moved there around the time we did. That group became our family because they understood the process of adjusting to a new location. In transition, we can often get so busy with the details of settling in that we don’t make it a priority to pursue others who can help us set down roots. We need to be intentional to do that – whether it’s through a local church, a school, sports, or some other venue.
- Be kind to yourself.
A friend once told me that when you move a plant from one place to another, even within the same house, it will probably wilt a little at first. It’s the same with us. It can take time to adjust to a new season, and it’s tempting to be hard on ourselves if we don’t bounce back as quickly as we hope. This is where we need to be gracious with ourselves. Maybe it means we eat off paper plates one more night because we can’t find the kitchen boxes yet, or we give ourselves grace when we get hopelessly lost on the way home. We need to speak to ourselves the way we would speak to a good friend in the same situation.
Transition can be unsettling, but it can also be a gift. It can shake us to our core – disrupting our sense of identity, competence, and connection with others. But it’s also an opportunity to learn to respond to ourselves in ways that are more compassionate and gracious; as we do, we increase our capacity to be compassionate and gracious with others.
To learn more about Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace, visit https://www.amazon.com/Making-Peace-Change-Navigating-Transitions/dp/1627079718/.