By Ashley Mays
On November thirteenth I left work with my coat in one hand and my lunch bag in the other.
On November fourteenth I left with a severance package and the phone number for the state unemployment department.
It was a totally unexpected, staggering loss when I became yet another casualty of a massive company-wide layoff.
I’d moved over a thousand miles from home to take that job. It was so much more than a paycheck to me. My coworkers had become my sisters. The people we served had become my friends. I’d been plugged into a global network of amazing people. My job was wholly, completely, entirely the stuff dreams are made of. I loved every second of it.
And suddenly, after a single Friday morning meeting, all of it was gone.
That change broke me. It was not my choice.
None of us can predict the future, and in fact trying to do so often produces considerable anxiety instead of the security we’re actually after. But that doesn’t keep us from trying to plot out all the twists and turns that are inevitable in this life.
When we’re blindsided by changes we didn’t want, it can be easy to fall into despair. But there are also a few things we can do to work through the hurt.
Pick a simple truth to concentrate on. Sometimes it can be too much of a struggle for our aching hearts to concentrate on one thing for too long. We automatically want to go back to the painful event and rehash it, asking the same questions of ourselves over and over. Did I do enough? Could I have changed the outcome? Why did this happen to me?
Instead, it’s far more beneficial for us to pick a truth to return to every time we find ourselves running back to the hurt or running from our fear of the future.
I battle severe anxiety and in some moments I can only manage to cling to a few words at a time. Here are some of them:
God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
God is who He says He is.
I am who God says I am.
In our craziest moments of upheaval, it may seem like we can’t believe the truth about God, ourselves, or our circumstances. That’s why we work even harder to remind ourselves over and over about the truth in our situations.
Surround yourself with as much beauty as possible. Sometimes when we encounter painful life experiences such as sudden, unwanted changes we can draw into ourselves or seek out destructive behaviors. Seek beauty instead. Watch that sunset. Paint that picture. Buy yourself those flowers in the grocery store. If something simple speaks beauty over your life, reach for it during times of change.
Give yourself the time and space to grieve. All changes, even good ones, represent some sort of loss in our lives. Take care to acknowledge what you’re leaving behind. Experience the big feelings, even if they seem awkward or heavy.
Keep a record for future you. For me, this means writing out everything: the hurt feelings, the confusion, the new stuff, the God-details, the blessings. Change is constant. It’s a comfort to me when I’m able to flip back over the pages of my past to remind myself that I survived, and even thrived after, other changes. God was at work years ago in our lives and in all our circumstances, so we can also trust that He is still at work in our current hardships and happiness.
The loss of my job is, even now, a very painful memory for me, and I don’t like to talk about it much. I sometimes ask God why things happened that way even though I trust His goodness. If you catch me on a hard day, I still cry over it.
But, by God’s grace, that experience didn’t destroy me. In fact, I am who I am now as a direct result of the change I didn’t choose.
The change you didn’t choose doesn’t have to destroy you either. It may hurt. It may become a turning point in your life. Life will likely never feel the same way it did “before.”
But now you can choose how and when you’re going to begin working through this change, even if your first step in that direction is very small.
Ashley Mays writes award-winning fiction to inspire young women toward strength, dignity, and laughter. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency. Ashley is unabashedly introverted, a lover of heart-to-heart conversations, and enthusiastic about mentorship. You’re welcome to start a conversation with her on her Facebook profile, her Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or her website. If you’d like to hear from her once every few months, her email newsletter is always open to new subscribers.