Reflections on New Life

Hello everybody.  I’m feeling contemplative this week.  I’ve seen a lot of patients in transition this week and thought I’d write down some thoughts about it.  All transitions have both good and bad elements, changes we welcome and changes we wish wouldn’t happen.

Some of our transitions have been truly joyous.  Our practice has a new baby!  Those of you who have been in the office recently will know which staff member was expecting.  Since the last practice baby was mine and he started kindergarten yesterday, we had a really long dry spell!  Makenzie is beautiful and perfect and we wish her mommy and daddy the EASIEST of transitions 🙂  They have some long nights and some stress ahead but they have lots of folks ready to help.  I think I saw Amy arranging a shift schedule…

Another transition I’ve been thinking about lately happened in my own family.  One year ago this weekend my husband underwent his stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma.  He became, in part, a new person because he has a new bone marrow and a new immune system.  It was a rough process but we came through it with support from our wonderful family and friends.  Russ has discovered along the way a much stronger faith in God and closer relationships with his family.

We’ve had a few deaths in our practice recently.  Those are always very sad but in these cases the deaths came at the end of a long and rich life.  Families are left to create a new and different family without the member they have lost, while ensuring their loved one isn’t forgotten.  The person who died moves on to whatever waits for us after death, what in one of my favorite movies was called “the great unknown mystery.”

Some versions of new life aren’t so dramatic.  One of my dear friends is struggling because her younger child just went away to college and she’s alone in the house for the first time in over 20 years.  A patient hurt his knee and has to be on crutches for awhile, so he has to adjust to lower mobility for a while and figure out how to do his job in a different way.  A person with obesity made a commitment to lose weight and now is struggling to recreate her relationship with food and with her own body.

My recommendations for dealing with transitions aren’t really very profound but hopefully they will help.  First, realize you’re not alone.  You’re not the first to deal with this change.  No matter what it is, someone else has dealt with it too.  Find a support group.  Lean on family and friends and ask for help when you need it.  Check Facebook for an interest-group page.  Explore your faith and rejoin your church or temple if you’ve fallen away.  (No, it doesn’t make you a hypocrite to turn to God in times of trial if you haven’t been faithful all along.  It just makes you human, and I guarantee your local congregation will leap at the chance to welcome you.)

Secondly, be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling.  Feel sad when you’re sad and cry when you need to.  Be angry, be happy, be whatever you are in the moment.  You don’t make the feelings go away when you refuse to acknowledge them.  Talk about them with a close friend or family member.  Get a counselor if you don’t feel able to share with friends or family or if uncomfortable feelings are getting worse.  Feelings are normal and natural and are necessary parts of interacting with the world.

Lastly, practice gratitude.  Find at least one thing every day for which to be thankful.  Even if it’s just that you woke up and the sun came up, that’s something.  “Practicing gratitude” is just that – practicing.  Just like practicing a musical instrument or practicing medicine, you get better at it the more you practice, and if you stop your skills deteriorate.  Our grieving families can be grateful their loved one is at peace.  My family is immensely thankful every day that Russ’s cancer is in remission and he is feeling good.

Transitions are tough.  Even when the cause is joyous there will be bumps in the road.  Take every day as a new adventure, share your thoughts and feelings with those that love you, be gentle with each other and look for the silver lining.  Pretty soon you will be settled into your “new life” and it will be hard to remember what the old one was like 🙂

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