Coping with Change

Change and death are essential elements of life itself but we instinctively resist both. There are numerous reasons for resistance to change be it either unexpected or expected and they are rooted in fear. Nothing is as upsetting to the human psyche as unexpected change because nothing has greater potential to cause us harm.

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Like it or not we are creatures of habit who don’t like being faced with the uncertainty of change. It conflicts with our desire to control – to achieve permanence in an impermanent universe. We fail to recognize that all we can control is how we are in the present moment, change threatens to move us out of our comfort zone and that makes us feel powerless.

When unexpected and unwelcome change is thrust upon us feelings of powerless and loss can be just as intense as the feelings experienced at the opposite end of the emotional scale,  when change is expected and welcomed.

change and fear

Fortunately, we are resilient creatures who can accept change and adapt to new circumstances. But getting over the shock of unexpected or unwelcome change involves a grieving process that takes time. The time it takes to accept the reality of change and its inevitability and heal from unexpected and unwelcome impacts varies.

For me 2012 was a year featuring  impermanence, as  I lost my mother, my brother and a close friend that year.  The grieving process is not linear – it’s an roller-coaster ride featuring recognition of loss, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. All manifest in random order and for indeterminate periods of time.

Each of us has to find our own way to move through our grief. Be good to yourself.  Develop a calm state of mind by learning Mindful Breathing Practice and use it to cope with the stress and anxiety that change give rise to. Embrace the process of letting go of what was, accepting what now is, and begin to look for opportunities for growth in your new circumstances.

Related post:
Tim Ferris: Smash fear, Learn anything



  1. Nice post. My condolences for your lost. I lost my mom and I am an only child, so that was very hard on me. However, I have yet to truly grieve. I don’t think I know how.

    I love your blog and I am so glad we connected via my blog, because I thought you were just the technical writing wizard. Glad to see you are so many layers to you. Keep up the wonderful writing and I also enjoy your technical writing as well. May God continue to show you favor!

  2. Dear timethief, I love your blog! Today is my first visit, but surely will not be my last! You explore so many topics that I am interested in! I can’t believe I am just finding you! I was a master’s level psychologist before I got sick with heart disease, and I actually taught stress management and relaxation exercises to groups. I took it myself as well, finding it helpfuul to have someone else lead me through certain exercises. I am no stranger to loss either–but more in the expected range–parents, grandparents. I agree with some of your other posters, losing a child would be the worst and I wonder also if I could handle it! Just this week I learned of the death of my closest childhood friend, just my age–it is astounding how totally steeped in that grief I have been this two days. I have been functioning, but his image is ever present just in front of me, and coloring every thought and movement! I ‘m so looking forward to reading your blog, and to being encouraged to live more mindfully again, its easy to forget! Helen

    • Just wanted to let you know, after looking over and reading many of your posts yesterday, mindfulness, meditation, and so forth…I found myself thinking about it seriously! When I lay down to sleep, and my coughing with this pneumonia was keeping me awake, i thought of some of your words, and I took a deep breath, and visualized my lungs healthy, reddish pink and moist, brimming with health! Thank you for reminding me! Just wanted you to know! Helen

      • Hi there Helen,
        Thanks so much for letting me know you like what you found here in both comments. I’m was so sorry to hear about your heart and knew you would like Carolyn’s blog and her positive attitude. :) The blog is full of resources and when it comes to cutting through the guff on heart disease she does that very well.

        Please accept my condolences the loss of your friend. I’ve been there and it hurts when we are left only with memories, and the reality of our own future death is magnified by our grief. All things and beings come to an end as the wheel of life rotates.

        I’m not a spring chicken so I have explored many ideas in my time and I continue to focus on mind training.

        I hope your pneumonia clears up very soon. Very best wishes for a speedy recovery to good health again.

  3. I really like this blog and admire the course you have chosen and the practices you cultivate in your life. My husband and I have a “dream” to relocate out of Los Angeles and desire a simpler life; however, we are making small changes during the transition and I was surprised at how averse we can both be to even small changes. We learned a breathing practice that has helped in this area . . . if we use it! A calm physiology can really make many things in life, including change, loss, the idea of impermanence, much more “manageable.” I look forward to more inspiration from your blog!

    • Hi there,
      I loved hearing that you love this blog. Thanks so much for commenting so I know your were here. There’s no doubt about it – we are threathened, frighetened, annoyed and irristated by many unexpected chnages in our lives. Occasionally we experience positive ones but it seems that chnages that impact us most are negative. That means we have to go through the grieving cycle to move forward. The more mindful we become the calmer we become and more detached we can be when change is thrust upon us. For me meditation began with breathing practice. Whenever I’m experiencing any angst I remind myself to breathe – just breathe – just follow your breath.

  4. This is such a perfect post for me to read, rafting as I’ve been on the river of impermanence. I spend a lot of time these days thinking about death, not in a bad way – more in a way to begin to make friends with it, to not fear its inevitability. There’s not much support for recognizing impermanence and thinking about death and grief, and the fear such changes creates. I am glad for the company!

    • It’s so good to hear from you. I think your idea of making friends with death is a sound one. You have suffered many losses too. Sadly your friend passed just a month ago. I think of you and your harp frequently and hope I have someone like you near me play for me one day.
      Love and peace

  5. Hi Timethief! @”I lost my mother, my brother and a close friend that year.” – RIP… my sincere and deep condoleances…<3 I've been the only child of my late parents… some say we become real adults after we lose our parents… speaking of death, I do believe that the worst experience that could "hit" us is to lose our kids… I can't imagine or figure out how a parent could overcome such a tragedy…
    * * *
    we miss the physical presence of our loved ones who passed away, but they continue to be alive in our hearts… wish u health, peace, strength and courage… friendly hugs, Mélanie

    • Mélanie,
      It’s so good that you came to visit. I come from a large family and I am the eldest child. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be an only child – I’m sorry your parents are gone. Yes I think you are right, losing a child would be terrible and healing would not be likely happen quickly. We have our memories of those we have lost and they are the legacy we value. They are priceless.

      Thanks for your wishes {HUG}

  6. Change is hard on those of us facing a mental illness. The nature of the disease makes us very habitual, because with habit comes less stress. I really appreciate this article. I am trying every day to step out of my comfort zone and experience new things.

    Sorry for your loss. I lost my brother 2 years ago and it was very tough on me.

    Thanks also for visiting my blog!

    • You are a very good writer and I was glad I visited your blog. I’m sorry to read you have also lost a brother. I’m a drug free depressive and my best wishes are being sent your way.

  7. Your writing is always inspirational. Happy to read that 2013 was a “year of adventure and new beginnings”. Wishing you all the very best for 2014 and thank you for all your absolutely invaluable blogging advice and direction. You are the Yoda of the internet! The force is definitely with you.

  8. I enjoyed (if that is the right word) your article and comments. No stranger to grief myself I find it comforting when others talk or write about their own experiences. Knowing I am not alone helps me and I hope it helps you too. Also you are right about it being a process. We are not “over it” until we are over it. We may never be over it and there is no rule that says one has to get over it. I prefer to think of myself growing around the wounds and encapsulating the grief like a tree that has lost a branch.

    • We are not “over it” until we are over it. We may never be over it and there is no rule that says one has to get over it. I prefer to think of myself growing around the wounds and encapsulating the grief like a tree that has lost a branch.

      There’s so much wisdom is that quote and I love the image. Thank you for posting it here.

  9. Hi TT,
    As a result of your outstanding assistance with helping me in the forums I subscribed to your other blog and then found this one.
    Can I say that I love, love, love your blog.
    I have lost to many people over the years including three brothers, a step mother, an uncle (younger than me) and my grandmother. Grieving is an ongoing process unfortunately and although the pain never goes away, it certainly morphs into something more bearable.
    I love that you have such a positive attitude about what you have been through. :)
    Blessings to you.

    • Hi there,
      I’m so glad you clicked through form one cool site and happy to know you liked what you found. It’s been a whole year for me so I do have a positive attitude now but it wasn’t easy to come by.
      Blessings to you too

  10. Yes, roller coaster. I feel for you. I lost a sister as you know. We all miss her. And my father who has prostate cancer is holding but yes, going downhill. I just bought a birthday card for him and every yr. I wonder when it’s going to be my last time to buy a card that specifically designed with wording for a father.

    • Yes, I do recall you losing a sister too. How sad it must be for you to be sending what could be a last birthday card to your father. Yet, and I don’t say this lightly, I think you will be better equipped to deal with your father’s death than you were with the unexpected death of your sister. I could be wrong but that’s what I experienced, Jean.

  11. This article was beautifully written, and I am so sorry for all that you’ve lost. It must be hard, and for that I’ll say a prayer for you. You are absolutely right, we as human beings are horrible about accepting change, and we don’t embrace it very well from the start. I’ve learned over my 23 years though, that if you smile it’s a little easier to embrace. I always try to look for the positive in every situation, it’s the only way I know to keep from getting into depression again. There’s always a small bit of light, even in the darkest of situations. :-)

  12. I’m so glad this was a better year for you. I had hoped this would be a year without fresh grief for me, but it wasn’t the case. Being ready and willing to accept the value of time to grieve, and do it in one’s own way and time is so, so important. <3

  13. This post was just what I needed as I recently lost a dear uncle whom I adored my entire life and a close friend. It’s hard coping with loved ones leaving us, but like you say, its part of life. I find crocheting helps me ease the pain and to focus on something positive. Although that’s easier said than done.

    • Hi Victoria,
      Before I took up blogging I spent my free time knitting, crocheting and doing crafts. Now I blog and have little time to work with fibers but I do know exactly what you mean. Knitting and crochet can become mindful meditation practices when we simply concentrate stitch by stitch on what we are doing, because that’s when we become immersed in the creative process and let go of everything else.

      • That’s wonderful you did all that. You seem to really enjoy blogging and very experienced at it. The crocheting has been such a blessing and so is blogging.

    • Hello kamana,
      I’m so sorry to read that. My heart goes out to you and having been grief stricken so many times I know there are no words I can offer that will make you feel any better about your loss.

      I cannot comment on your blog. Below is the comment I typed but could not leave on your blog. Note that you have my permission to copy and paste it there:

      I think facing fear and overcoming it is the only way to get past it and grow stronger as individuals as we move through life.

      Both of my blogs are on their own domains and your comment settings do not allow me to comment using my username and my URL. To understand why I cannot comment more clearly is explained in this blog post of mine on my blogging tips blog.

      Thanks for your visit and comment and best wishes.

  14. I am so sorry that you had so much loss with people that were dear to you and I am sure it has been very difficult for you. I also am a great believer in doing your best to let go and accept the now… very empowering.

    • Thanks for your kindness. I had a year of recovery and renewal and I’m feeling much more optimistic these days. Letting go and accepting the peace we experience in the present moment – moment by moment is empowering. The hardest part is letting of our attachments and aversion so we can do that.

      P.S. It’s so good to meet you and find your wonderful blog. Your images are outstanding and the food makes me drool.

    • Hi Kathy,
      2012 was a grief stricken year for me and 2013 was a year of recovery and renewal. I don’t know what this year will hold but I’m positively focused and confident I will be resilient enough to cope with change better than I have in past years.

      By way of contrast your 2013 was a year of adventure and new beginnings I loved being along for the ride.

      Sending my love to you and Sara.

  15. Beautifully written. I often am able to handle the unexpectedness of things, but fail at the unwelcome feelings that accompany such events. Which is to say that I’m good in the clutch, but become depressed later. I agree that developing a calm state of mind is the key to coping– and now realize that breathing practice is exactly what I need to start doing daily. Thanks.

    • Wow! I experienced the same delayed response in the past. In any crisis I am cool, calm and collected. I can become organized and act to get things done and even delegate work to others. I can be there to hold others up but afterwards I fall to pieces. Learning how to meditate by starting with mindful breathing practice and then candle meditation and continuing to learn other practices has changed that for me. I’m no longer falling to pieces.

    • I have lost both parents, my younger brother and three close friends and I have been in various stages of grief over and over again for years. The turning point was last year when no one close to me died. It’s scary to see people who are younger than yourself die. Although we all know an accident or illness could take us we avoid thinking about death and planning for the changes that flow from it. The key to moving on is understanding and accepting impermanence. It’s easily said but not easily done.

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