Kris Carr

Emotional Health

4 Ways to Process Unexpected Change (and Come Out Stronger)

Hiya Gorgeous!

I want to share a story about a loss I recently experienced and how I applied the methods from my new book, I’m Not A Mourning Person

Life gets interrupted in many different ways—big and small. This we can count on. 

It’s how we approach those interruptions (or devastations) that shore up our ability to not only weather the storms, but turn them into opportunities for growth, new life, and even deeper satisfaction. 

Last week, a colleague I’ve been working with for a while gave notice. I was shocked. Not only do I adore this person, but she’s also great at her job and a pleasure to work with. A wonderful opportunity came her way, though, and she felt it would be foolish not to take it. (I agreed.) 

But underneath my surprise and overwhelm I realized a familiar feeling, one I would have been too afraid to name in the past—grief. I’d relegate grief to the big heartbreaks and I’d fight like hell not to feel it. All that fighting, denying, pushing down would morph into something far less productive and manageable.

In the past, I would have panicked. NOW? This is the worst time! (As if there’s a “best time” for unexpected change?)

I’d worry about what to do and how to do it. I’d stress about the impact the sudden interruption would make. 

I’d complain and likely shut down. And I’d probably tell myself a litany of fear-based stories—which would only make me feel worse. 

But since going on this journey, I’m not only more capable of weathering storms with grace and acceptance, I’m better able to turn them into new opportunities. 

I do that by holding space for the possibility that even unexpected changes can create results that are in better alignment with who I am now and who I am committed to becoming. 

When something ends, consciously choose to make space for something better. 

  • What if getting fired works out for the better? You finally launch your own business or find your dream job.
  • What if getting dumped allows you to find your true soulmate? The person you’d never have seen if you were stuck in the old relationship (that probably wasn’t that fulfilling if you’re honest with yourself).
  • What if the move was a catalyst for deeper connection? You love where you now live and the new community you’ve built. 

You may be thinking, Sure, that all sounds good, but how do I get there from here? (Especially if you find yourself at the bottom of what feels like a deep, dark hole.) 

4 Ways to Process Unexpected Change from my new book: 

#1 Accept that what you’re experiencing is loss. 

The hardest thing for any of us to accept is loss. But allowing the pain of our losses is how we ultimately start to get our energy moving so we can feel alive again. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up or settling, it means owning your self-worth and never abandoning yourself—especially in loss. 

#2 Let go of the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s. 

You know the nasty little suckers. The unproductive thoughts that keep us stuck in the past, beating ourselves up, or blaming others. The “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s” mess up our ability to recognize all the goodness that’s actually happening in our lives right now—even if the present moment also holds pain. I should have taken better care of myself. I could have caught this sooner. I would have done things differently if I only knew. 

To some degree, the “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s” are normal. But when left unchecked, they make it harder to pick up the pieces and move forward. 

#3 Name your feelings. 

This is where emotional literacy comes in. You need to identify what the actual feeling is. For example, “I am angry.” Great! Anger is a signaling emotion, which means there’s always something underneath it. Possibly an ancient boo boo that desperately needs tending. Thank your anger for pointing you in the direction of your healing. 

And know this: You are not expected to gloss over any of your feelings with positivity. Get down with what’s coming up. 

#4 Get out of your head and into your body. 

Research shows that it’s hard to solve the problems of the mind with the mind. When we’re flooded with big feelings triggered by unexpected life changes, it’s really challenging to mentally strong-arm ourselves back to calm. 

This is where movement comes in. Even just 10 minutes of movement per day (walking, aerobics, dance—anything you love that gets your heart pumping) significantly reduces stress and anxiety. Moving your muscles also releases a flood of feel-good neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. 

We may never “get over” loss. 

Especially when it’s the loss of a loved one or our former sense of safety. But over time, we become more adept at moving forward. 

Life is always worth fully living. 

It’s beautiful. It’s a privilege. You deserve to bask in it, scars and all. 

I’m looking forward to hearing from you, my friend. What’s one thing that helps you navigate unexpected change? Let’s share our collective wisdom in the comments section.

All my love always,

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  1. Jennifer Caffey says:

    I have found for me that tweeking the message or semantics has been deeply transformational. Saying “I FEEL…” instead of “I AM…” when identifying my feelings keeps me from labeling myself as that feeling… I am angry, sad, anxious…. I am not those things BUT I sure as heck FEEl them. I also don’t prefer the word journey when referring to my losses and grief… a journey implies an end, a destination. There is no end or destination in grief. It is always there, but transforms and changes over time. It is non-linear and stages don’t apply. I have learned to recognize it and be mindful of it, and most importantly…. to be present with it allowing myself to move through it in the moment instead of resist it. I am honoring not only myself but the subject of my grief (a person, life event, etc.).

  2. Anne says:

    I am in the middle of a loss I hope none of you reading this will ever have to endure. My 23 year old son, my best friend in the world, died suddenly 4 weeks ago. Grief is terrifying and at the moment it feels like my whole identity and future has dissolved and I don’t want a new one. I’m really looking forward to reading the new book.

    • Kris Carr says:

      Oh Anne, I am so terribly sorry for what you’re going through! Sending you so much love during this difficult time and beyond. 💚

  3. Kate F. says:

    In times of loss and grief, I lean into my spiritual beliefs. I remind myself that this life is a school of sorts that my soul chose to be in to learn and grow for a short time. Growth comes from all experiences but the difficult or painful ones seem to provide the greatest opportunities, in my experience. I remind myself that I’m held in unconditional love and will continue to be while moving forward in this new phase of life. I listen for direction. And I try to be extra kind to myself and others.

  4. Susan Curnow says:

    This too shall pass.

  5. Kristin says:

    When I was going through a huge unexpected change in my life I used a regular daily home practice of yoga to help me navigate through the change. The stability of the grounding yoga practice made me feel centered and in control when everything around me was changing. In particular, Yoga with Adriene (on Youtube), was what helped to make me feel better as she approaches yoga with such compassion -encompassing the mind-body connection.

  6. Liz Curran says:

    For me unexpected change brings on lots of different emotions. Mostly, finding a calm moment, sitting in silence and meditating brings me some enlightenment. Whether its acceptance, a solution, or peace, it is always better after I take the time to reflect.

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