Major life transitions

What is a life transition?

life transistion @ auckland therapy : counselling and psychotherapyThink of a child’s mobile gently dancing in the breeze. Then imagine life comes along and cuts off one of the pendants. Suddenly the whole mobile is unbalanced, gets tangled and flaps about. If you have experienced a major life transition, you might relate to this metaphor.

Think of the movement from autumn to winter, to spring and then summer. Human transitions, beginnings and endings, separation and attachment, birth and death, are as natural as the seasons. However, they challenge us to let go of the familiar and embrace the unknown. Not knowing is feared and not encouraged in our society. Think of the many suggestions poured forth from well-meaning people that encourage list-making as a security blanket; how locating yourself on a map can take you from feeling lost to feeling as if you know where you are. As mortals, we want to cling to what feels certain. We are all unique creatures of nature and will have different ways of dealing with change, but what we all have in common is that change is inevitable and constant.

Unwelcome changes in life

So some changes are welcome: a change of country, a planned pregnancy, a wedding or moving in together, or returning to school, for example. However, even planned events can be unexpectedly disrupting and life altering. Some changes are inevitable — think about the weather again — childbirth following pregnancy can sometimes turn out differently to how we had hoped or imagined. The empty nest, aging, retirement and death just seem to creep up on us. In fact, all we have with certainty is a not knowing. Other changes, like redundancy, infertility, separation, major illness or accidents can leave us completely unprepared and come without warning. We may feel shocked and angry — these sudden changes can knock us for six, undermining who we thought we were.


The great news is that while these transitions can make us uncomfortable, they offer us a chance to think about our strengths, to explore what we want. Crossing over from familiar to unfamiliar invites us into a time of reflection, encourages us to look at and clean up unfinished business. It gives us a chance to bring that mobile back into equilibrium, resulting in a sense of renewal and stability. The trick is to stay sober, look after yourself, build a support system, accept that you may never understand why it happened, know that its OK to feel confused and afraid, and simply take one step at a time.