Several times in my life I have had to make hard decisions. Considering a move was one of them and every time it was scary, and the bigger the move, the greater the anxiety. Sometimes I wanted to move and willingly initiated the process, other times I had to move for financial reasons, both scenarios were stressful. I noticed my feelings during these times and it wasn’t until I started studying psychology that I began to understand what, how, and why I was feeling the way it did.
Psychologists have been studying the impact of change in people for many years. They have studied people’s reactions to change, thoughts and feelings about change; and why some people seem to handle change without a care, while others resist it with full force. Surprisingly, one model of change surfaced in the study of the Stages of Grief by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. What was found was many people go through stages of grief when experiencing changes in their lives. The five stages of Grief Kubler-Ross developed are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Many people move through these stages in times of change, especially when we are facing a big event such as moving to a new home. Here are some examples.
Denial – Sometimes, you may have noticed you have resisted ideas for some time. Especially with the decision to move, we can come up will all types of excuses as to why we don’t need to move now; “It’s not the right time,” “we won’t find any friends,” or “no one will come to visit.” You may not even listen to your friends and family who are looking out for you. You may even argue with them and fight the idea. But if it is a good thing, you may be resisting change. As the saying goes, Denial (the “Nile”) is not just a river in Africa.
Anger – This emotion can creep up on you as you come to realize that you have to make the move you have been resisting. You have gone through all the reasons for denial and concluded that you have to go. So now you’re just plain mad. It may come out as snapping at others, having less patience with things, and in general, not feeling great.
Bargaining – As a way to counteract anger, there is a tendency to try and rationalize the situation as way out. “Maybe if we put it off for a few more years,” “what if I get a job to help make ends meet,” we conjure up excuses and reasons that may reverse what is happening. You may feel a glimmer of hope as you make these last-ditch efforts to avert the inevitable.
Depression – This feeling can set in after attempts to “bargain” our way out of the situation did not work. You feel powerless to change the situation and the future looks gloomy. This is a time to connect with others who listen to your story and how you are feeling. It feels good to “vent” your frustrations and maybe find some shared experiences with which you can learn. Always remember that there are counselors and support groups where ever you are to help you get through tough times like these.
Acceptance – Over time, thinking through the situation, and with encouragement with friends and family, we can come to accept what is happening and start to gain a sense of peace with what has to happen and perhaps even looking forward to exploring the next chapter of our lives.
It’s important to note that this process is not always linear or one-directional. This means that people can move through the denial, anger, bargaining, and in a depressed state when something will happen that causes them to circle back to being angry again. Then work through the bargaining stage again with this new perspective and then on to bargaining and acceptance.
Understanding how we process change in our lives can help tremendously in addressing the anxiety that often comes with big decisions. Knowing where you are in the process as well as seeing where others are as well can help you get through these difficult times.