King Solomon once wrote, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
We seem to understand that we’ll experience different seasons over the course of our lives, but for some reason, we aren’t all that accepting of new seasons in the lives of people we love.
Over the past five years, I’ve known people whose lives were altered overnight through the death of a loved one, a cancer diagnosis, the need to become a caregiver as a parent ages — on and on it goes.
The next day, they woke up to a different world. One that felt disorienting.
When people we know and love are going through something new, we want nothing but the best for them. But we also want things to return to normal — for our relationship with them to be unaltered, but that’s not always possible.
When leaves turn orange, red, yellow and brown, then shrivel and fall to the ground each autumn, we don’t expect summer to follow. Summer is over. And when temperatures dip below freezing in the winter, we don’t expect fall. Instead, we adjust because we know we don’t have a choice.
Maybe we do so as easily as we do because we know that changes in the weather are coming. The calendar tells us so. The calendar also tells us that the season we prefer will come again next year.
That’s not the case with life. As such, maybe we should refer to life changes as stages rather than seasons.
When an infant transitions into toddlerhood (is that a word?), we know there’s no going back. When a teen transitions to adulthood, we fully expect him or her to change. As as we transition from middle age to old age, nobody expects us to run a marathon — especially when they see us struggling to get out of the car with arthritic knees.
Likewise, for the wife who’s lost her husband of forty years, there’s no going back. For the one who has received a terminal diagnosis, there’s no going back. And for the one who has lost everything in a fire, flood or hurricane, there’s no going back. Only forward.
So, they start anew. New routines, new places, and new people. That doesn’t mean they want to leave everyone else behind. It just means they are trying to find their way down a new path.
I say all of this as someone who likes things the way they are. But as I’ve listened to the people I love who were forced into a time of loss, I’ve heard them say that their established relationships will be different. Not worse. Just different. So, I’m trying to be sensitive to that.
If you’re someone who has gone through or is going through a stage of life change, what do you wish those around you would do or say as you seek to adjust? And what would you like to say to them about the nature of your relationship with them?