At the end of October, I wrote about the prospect of losing Lytton to a mysterious illness. I had hoped to get more time with him as we thought we had a few options to manage his health. But towards the end of November, we had to do the compassionate thing and end his suffering. I learned a lot about embracing big changes in life during that time.
While I consider myself fortunate to have a few weeks to prepare for it, I am still in shock over the quickness he went from healthy to terminally ill. From the first sign of his illness to when we said goodbye was a month and a half. I prepared, but it’s hard to move that fast for such a substantial change.
Yet, significant life changes happen all the time. Our diagnosis. Buying a house. Losing a loved one. Finding someone new to love. The changes discussed in this post are the ones completely out of our control.
Change happens. Sometimes we can prepare ourselves for it, but often we cannot. What we can do is take the time to embrace the change. Regardless of whether you consider the change positive or negative, it’s going to happen regardless of your wishes. Rather than fight it, we find a way to work through it.
How Can Change Help You?
Change can help us, even if it’s unwelcome. I don’t know when I will reach the point where I can sincerely say losing Lytton helped me. Each day, I go through all the stages of grief as I try to move through my new normal.
Yet, I admit that losing him tested the effectiveness of the wellness journey I’ve made over the past few years. I did not need the confirmation that it works. But, the fact that I still haven’t experienced an exacerbation is proof that I am managing healthily.
Lytton’s death reminded me of the impermanence of life. I pushed death to the back of my mind as something that happens to other people but hasn’t touched me. With that attitude, I did not appreciate everyone around me in the way I do now. I recognize that anyone can leave me permanently, with no explanation.
Finally, it reminded me that change happens, and I can get through it. The last time I experienced a “negative” life shift was after my diagnosis, almost seven years ago. I regrouped and was eventually able to move forward.
Change, whether it’s good or bad, can help you discover essential things:
- The importance of taking time for yourself. If you experience a life change, negative or positive, take some time to sit with it.
- Self-care, again. The further I get into life, the more confirmation I get surrounding the importance of self-care. Self-care can be in celebration or to help calm oneself after the change.
- How resilient we are and why finding ways to adapt is essential. While we must accept an uncontrollable change, we don’t have to roll over. We can find ways to adapt and adjust to change.
- Appreciate life before, during, and after the change. We can recognize what we had before, find ways to enjoy life as it is, and understand what life might be in the future.
- Finding the positive in the negative. It might take some time, but there’s always a silver lining even in the negative changes. You might find comfort knowing what’s going on with you, be at peace because a person no longer suffers, or allowed to try a new career opportunity.
Embracing Big Life Changes
The key, I’ve found, is to lean into the uncontrollable changes for better or for worse. There are some changes we can fight for, opportunities we can pursue even if the door keeps shutting. But often, significant changes are out of our hands. We cannot prevent the new direction our life goes in, so we can accept the outcome and find ways to adapt.
The first step is acceptance and embracing the big changes. Finding ways to adapt follow closely behind.
For me, while I would love to run out and find a Bombay kitten similar to Lytton, I am learning to reconnect with our other two cats as a form of acceptance. Lytton was such a significant presence in our household that often, the other two cats functioned like roommates we cared and fed. I am spending more time with them, whether they appreciate it or not, and loving on them.
After my diagnosis, I fought the information, choosing to be ignorant of my MS because it was too painful to acknowledge. Behaving this way did not improve my quality of life. But once I took steps to accept and adapt my reality, I found greater satisfaction with everything.
If there are negative feelings associated with significant life changes, it’s hard to accept and adapt, especially in what we feel is a timely manner. Remember to honor your timetable, but be open to acceptance as your goal once you’ve finished mourning (death or health change).
Big changes are going to happen in life. We have two options when encountering change: embrace it or reject it. When we embrace the change, it allows us to heal and move forward. When we reject it, it can prolong our dissatisfaction and cause stress.
In the end, the decision is ours how we deal with change.
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Featured photo credit: Canva