Provision #259: Grieve the Loss

Laser Provision

Last week I encouraged you to get going. This week, I write about grieving the old in order to make way for the new. It’s not disrespectful to recognize, celebrate, and bury what’s passing away. On the contrary, it’s the greatest tribute of life to get over things and move on. This Provision tells you why and how.

LifeTrek Provision

We’re in the midst of a Provisions’ series on how to successfully navigate life’s transitions. Two weeks ago, we talked about sitting still in the eye of the storm. Staying continuously in the swirling winds of change will eventually exhaust both your resources and wisdom. Sitting still provides comfort, sustenance, and direction.

Last week, I encouraged you to get going. One cannot sit still forever, especially in times of transition. It may appear as daunting as standing at the edge of a precipice, tied to a bungee cord, but eventually we have to shove off and get going if we ever hope to get through to the other side.

But how do we do that? William Bridges observes that the challenge to get going is fundamentally a psychological one. It requires an internal, more than an external, shift. That shift starts with letting go of the old status quo. When people hold on internally to old ways of being and doing, after the external environment changes, they undermine their ability to be successful and fulfilled. If enough people hold on internally to old ways of being and doing, they undermine the ability of entire organizational structures to be successful and fulfilled. In short, we have to grieve our loss and get over our attachments if we ever hope to forge a new reality.

This is true whether we’re running away from or running toward something. Many people assume that moving on will be easy and automatic just because they’re leaving a situation in which they have been profoundly unhappy. Au contraire! Unless you make the internal shift from old to new ways of being, you’ll simply end up replicating the old situation in the new. That’s why so many people get divorced and remarried, only to discover • after a period of time • that nothing has really changed in the process.

In order to get going and move on we have to do the internal work of grieving the loss of the status quo, even when the status quo has been less than satisfactory. There’s something comfortable and reassuring about old, established patterns even when they are ruts that squeeze the life right out of us. As the old expression goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

To get going, the old familiar ruts have to be recognized for what they are, celebrated, and eventually buried. It’s harder, but not structurally different, when the status quo is quite happy and fulfilling. When change comes, we still have to grieve the loss in much the same way • recognize, celebrate, and bury.

You may be familiar with the five stages of grief, identified by the Swiss-born psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth K•bler-Ross: denial, anger or resentment, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. K•bler-Ross identified these stages as part of her work with terminally ill patients. Although the length and quality of each stage differ from one patient to the next, the fact that people go through these stages of grief is well documented in many cultures.

So too when it comes to navigating the other transitions of life, which come before death • the greatest and most universal transition of them all. To get going is equivalent to reaching what K•bler-Ross calls the acceptance stage of grief. In order to get going we have to grieve our loss on all levels of being: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual. There’s no way around that uncomfortable but important work.

K•bler-Ross’ work is reassuring because of the perspective it brings on denial, anger or resentment, bargaining, and depression. These are not to be shunned and ridiculed. These are stages that everyone goes through. The key is to see them for what they are and to not get stuck in them. As we navigate life’s transitions, it’s important to recognize and celebrate both the old and the new.

This wisdom is recognized in all great religious traditions. They have developed elaborate rituals to symbolize what’s happening as babies are born, children are raised, milestones are reached, marriages are made, boundaries are set, violations are forgiven, and bodies are buried. One thing all these rituals have in common is that they speak and minister to the deep emotional places of our being. They are designed to provoke both laughter and tears.

If we hope to get going and to successfully navigate the transitions of life, we too need to find our laughter and tears. Do not be afraid of them. Doing so will only make the transition harder, if not impossible. Before this series is over we’ll talk more about how to do that • engaging both flesh and spirit. For now, it’s enough to simply recognize their value and encourage their expression. Grieve the loss of the status quo if you want to get going. It’s not disrespectful to do so. It’s essential, if we hope to be successful and fulfilled in life.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

TI am wondering if it would be possible for you to provide a way by which I can save the week’s Provision in my PDA so I can view past issues while on the road because usually I don’t have access to laptops on such situations. Thank you and more power to you. (Ed. Note: The PDA version of LifeTrek Provisions through AvantGo includes the current and past 4 issues • see “Recent Issues” • if you want more than five you should create a custom channel pointed to with a link depth of two. But watch out: you’ll bring in almost 200 Provisions, taking up lots of space on your PDA.)

Thanks for the clarification (on the David Wagoner poem)! I am in Tampa now on the way to Detroit • in transition, limbo and enjoying it.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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