As 2014 grows to a close, I find myself contemplating all that happened this year. In years past, I have occasionally felt a “theme”; awakening or challenge, for example. This year is undoubtedly the year of change, but not just ordinary change. This was a year filled with Unwelcome Change

There are small changes-like when we rearrange our furniture, larger changes when we take on a new job or even bigger changes when we move or marry. Those are the changes most of us welcome- we may have apprehension about them, but because they involve choice, we do not feel out of control.

On the other hand is Unwelcome Change. It really doesn’t need definition; if you experienced it, then you know-it is powerful, all consuming and knocks you down. It is filled with despair, fear and anger. It makes us panicky.

The biggest Unwelcome Changes are loss related- death or illness. You may not see illness as loss, but illness takes away our sense of wellbeing and of our feeling of invincibility. Along with all the uncomfortable emotions, illness is also incredibly disruptive to our practical life; schedules, finances, and relationships are all challenged and adjusted.

The death of a loved shakes us to our core and often challenges our sense of self. The women who has lost a husband struggles with a term widow. The parent who has lost a child is unsure, when asked, to say how many children she has. The adult child who has lost a parent, feels the inner child panic of an orphan.

I am not going to wax poetic about the gifts of survival, recovery and hidden gifts. I do think those things come, but later on. Right now, if you are newly dealing with illness or a death then the last thing you need is a pep talk. “Buck up” is not helpful.

Here’s what you DO need-A warm fuzzy blanket, a box of tissues, maybe chicken soup or a gooey pile of macaroni and cheese, and a pair of cozy socks. Curl up in a ball on the couch and if you need to, cry, flail, yell at the stars, feel sorry for yourself, stamp your feet, sleep a lot, eat chocolate and be gentle, oh so gentle with yourself.

Does that sound self- indulgent? Well, it is! And what is wrong with that? If a child is hurt, we would hold them close, wipe their tears, keep them warm and feed them well. We grown-ups need comfort as well!

When we allow ourselves to be comforted, we can relax into our pain. Rather than fighting it, or suppressing it, we honor our loss and its impact on our being and when we do that, a surprising thing happens. We get through it.

We stop crying, push off the blanket, set the chocolate aside and get pulled back into our lives. It happens simply- without fireworks. Suddenly you notice the dust that has accumulated, the dishes in the sink and pile of unread papers and unpaid bills. “How did I let that happen?” you think.

And as simply as that, you re-enter your life- forever changed, but not broken.

Of course, that is not the end of it. Grief does not follow a clear linear trajectory. You will go a few hours, days or even weeks fully involved in your life and then, suddenly you may feel punched in the gut as the impact of the Unwelcome Change washes over you and slams you down again; don’t panic. Return to your couch, your blanket and your tissues and ride it out. It will pass. You are not “regressing”. Grief is wild and unpredictable; when least expected, it will flood your senses. You may feel your emotions are “all over the place”. Try not to judge this experience, but rather allow it to be what it needs to be. The intense pain will ebb and flow.

Then, overtime, you will begin to see a pattern- the periods of grief lessen in duration and frequency even when the intensity may stay the same. In time these moments of profound loss will be balanced by moments of joy and engagement, and those will eventually prevail. Trust your body and the process and keep your tissues nearby.

In this time of Unwelcome Change,

may you find comfort and peace as you move into this New Year.

© 2014 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.


  1. Judy Casper on the 06. Jan, 2015 remarked #

    It appears there is enough tragedy and hurt to go around today. But we must focus to find a silver lining in it. The more grateful you become for just what you have the happier you will be. We don’t need to reach out to things! Even with “hurts” if you look, there is more good in your life than bad. Judy. (Hi Donna) Thank you.

    • Donna Ferber on the 07. Jan, 2015 remarked #

      Sound words, Judy. There is good in life. Sometimes we just have to look REALLY hard to find it!

  2. denise tucker on the 23. Jan, 2015 remarked #

    Love it, sure hope I find a small light, to guide to through.

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