Coping with transitions
My friend Martha is 60 years old. She had been with her company for years in various roles from manager to director and finally COO. This past year she had some challenges related to her health, her mom died and she got divorced after almost 40 years of marriage. She was coasting towards retirement and looking forward to being able to travel and spend time with her grand kids.
A few weeks ago she was let go for "not meeting quarterly goals for 3 quarters in a row." She was devastated. This came with no warning and she felt victimized and betrayed. Termination means loss of certain benefits, no chance of a severance and personal humiliation. Her replacement is a young (younger) male whom she has mentored and who just happened to be moving into her state to be closer to his family. The timing could not have been worse and was very suspicious to Martha because of certain interactions and recent conversations she had had with her replacement.
I could relate to her dilemma very well as I have been supporting her through this transition. She knew of my work in change management and life coaching and could relate intellectually to much of what I had to say. However coping was/is still very hard. Anyone who has ever lost a job, especially suddenly, knows that empty feeling.
Grieving about a change is not unlike grieving a death: there are the phases of denial, bargaining, anger, depression and finally acceptance. This is not a linear process of course, as one slips in and out of a phase without warning-and then maybe revert to a previous phase one or more times.
Many psychologists describe a transition cycle outlining how one copes with change; finally ending up (hopefully) with acceptance and moving on to a new future.
Author and syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman talks about endings as making a graceful exit. In her final column, Goodman wrote, "There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over - and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry that we are moving on rather than out."
To whoever is facing a transition, I gently remind you, "You'll be alright. You are simply moving on, not moving out."