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Encountering Major Changes in Life During COVID-19

July 13th, 2020 · No Comments · changes in life

Major changes in life are some of life’s most important events. Many people are continuing to experience such changes right in the midst of COVID-19.

Often referred to as major life transitions, major changes in life occur as a regular part of our life journey. These types of events or life experiences are often characterized by a strong sense of “before” and “after” when we look back upon them from a later point in our lives. As we tell ourselves our life story, we might say, “Before this event occurred, I was (fill in the blank), but after, I was different”, or, “I changed when I went through XYZ.

The Life Events That Change Us

To what types of life events or life experiences am I referring? There’s a very long list, but it would certainly include the following, for adults:

  • getting married;
  • getting separated or divorced;
  • having a baby;
  • undergoing a miscarriage
  • deciding to change careers;
  • losing a job;
  • major changes in job requirements or the workplace;
  • retirement;
  • moving to a new city;
  • bereavement, losing a close relative;
  • religious or spiritual crisis; and,
  • many, many more.

So, what happens if an individual is going through a major change in life, during this COVID-19 period, when it can feel like so much is changing already? It can be extremely demanding for people to go through a major life event at the same time that we, as a society, are more or less involuntarily going through this other major life event, that we call the COVID-19 lockdown period. How are people who have to go through both at the same time impacted?

Such individuals can certainly encounter a great deal of stress, which can manifest as anxiety and / or depression. If, in addition to the pressures and complications of the lockdown period, an individual is confronting another crisis that they cannot avoid, the demands can seem very nearly overwhelming.

In some cases, the COVID-19 crisis is even triggering other major changes in life. For instance, the experience of lockdown has certainly led to marital tensions, and sometimes, marital breakdown. The experience of isolation has also caused very serious re-evaluations of life priorities, in the form of individuals realizing the need to change career or vocation in some way, and, in some cases, has led to individuals confronting major spiritual, existential and moral awakenings.

Beyond Overwhelm

Individuals confronting major life changes in this time can find it very easy to stay in a state of emotional denial. It can be easy for the individual to tell herself that the major changes in life that she is confronting are not really that significant, and to try and “keep things on the back burner”. This is often the way that the psyche of an overwhelmed individual tries to deal with the situation: it dissociates, or cuts itself off from the emotional impact of the challenge that the individual faces, and tries to “soldier on”.

However, things can easily get to the point where the individual can no longer soldier on without acknowledging the emotional burden created by the marital breakdown, or the job loss, or the feelings of loneliness, isolation and meaninglessness. This can manifest in a crisis where the individual is simply failing to cope, or in substance abuse issues, or it can show up as physical issues, or even as severe illness. To keep moving forward in the life journey, rather than stuck at an impasse, something else is needed.

What Life is Asking Now

One useful way of looking at major life changes is to think about the question that life is asking of us at this particular moment. The questions that life has brought forward for many people in this time of COVID-19 are large indeed.

Depth psychotherapy can be a very effective way to help individuals to face the questions that life asks. It can provide invaluable holding support as they seek out workable ways to move through major changes in life, in a way that has integrity, while remaining true to the fundamental identity of the individual.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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