According to Ray Kelly, “One of the problems humans face is that we cling to something as if it were permanent. By embracing the illusion of permanence, we set ourselves up for suffering. We become discouraged and afraid when this illusion is shattered and things change.” When challenged by change, we try to fight by swimming against the flow thus causing us unnecessary emotional pain. To avoid accepting change, some individuals will bury their resistance by using drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex and other distractions..
We like to think that relationships last a lifetime. People marry and approximately one half of them will end in divorce. It is common knowledge that divorce can create as much grief as a death. Divorce and death are changes that are less about the ending and more about our attachment to permanence. As a psychotherapist, I have seen the pain created by our resistance to change. It seems that if we can simply master the skill of acceptance, it would be one of our most valuable life skills. Without acceptance, we will be plagued by grief and depression regarding our loss, guilt and shame about the past, and anger about chronic pain and anxiety regarding the future. When we fight or deny change we create more pain and run the risk of missing so many of the blessings we do have.
When young children resist change, they frequently go into a meltdown or have temper tantrums as a way to express Im not getting my way! As adults, we get angry about the changes we do not want to happen, such as losing a job, a marriage or even our health. Although most adults do not have temper tantrums, we all become frustrated and some become seriously depressed, especially when they cannot accept the many changes life brings.
Consider common changes we all face. Young children are faced with the fact that they will have to leave play behind in order to begin reading and writing in school. Then there is the change of moving from elementary school to middle school and high school. Most teens try to change themselves to fit in rather than accept who they are. They may resist their bodies and try to make themselves into something completely different.
As adults the changes keep coming. For example, your child becomes a teen and suddenly no longer shares everything with you. When your adult child makes choices, you are faced with the reality that you no longer have a “vote” in their lives. Friends move away and jobs come to an end. Health declines, along with the way our bodies used to work. We watch elderly parents get dementia and slowly pass away. Adults lose their parents and children their grandparents. Others are shocked by the sudden death of loved ones or even the unbearable trauma of losing a child.
In divorce the changes may continue over time. It is not just about changes associated with becoming single and making decisions on your own. Much of the process of divorce is one of grieving and letting go of what was, to accept what your life is now. Eventually, you will likely have to deal with your former spouse moving on to find a new mate/spouse. This change, if not accepted, can create a disaster for the co-parenting relationship and for your child. Accepting that your child will have a step-parent and they may develop a close relationship with them can be painful for many divorce parents. When we can accept that life is ever changing, then the process is less painful.
“It’s not fair!” is repeated by children to parents everywhere. However, truth be known, we never seem to outgrow this complaint for things to be fair. As wonderful as life can be, nowhere does it say that life will be fair. To be healthy, we must accept painful changes so we may adjust our expectations, ultimately recover, and move on. The ability to shift from Plan A to Plan B is a healthy life skill that requires we adjust our expectations. We may not have the ability to control everything but we do have the ability to determine how we react.
At this time of Thanksgiving, remember that living in gratitude is an effective way to manage stress and cope with change. We can also try to reframe negative changes into something more tolerable and in some cases into something even positive. Change is a universal fact of nature and embracing it would help us all adapt to our lives. If we do not, we remain victims of life and overlook all the many blessings we do have.
Widely known for her expertise in the area of divorce and the family, she provides training to educators, family law and mental health professionals, as well as “High-conflict divorce” and “Parenting Coordination”.She has trained parenting coordinators since 1997, and as a result, co-authored the first and only comprehensive model of parenting coordination. Respected in their field, Susan has conducted numerous seminars on the international, national, state and local levels on topics such as parental alienation and visitation refusal, interviewing children, therapeutic and supervised visitation and developmentally appropriate time-sharing plans.
She has been awarded clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and is a member of multiple organizations including the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.Mrs. Boyan maintains a private practice in Georgia.
Latest posts by Susan Boyan (see all)
- Seek and You Shall Find;Confirmation Bias with Divorce - July 1, 2015
- King Solomon’s Advice on Co-Parenting - June 3, 2015
- Part II. Different Paths to Seek a Divorce - May 21, 2015