When something major happens in your life — good, bad, or otherwise — it's important to take the time to process it, and figure out how to handle difficult situations and any changes that might be affecting you emotionally. We know to do this following tragedies, such as the death of someone we love. But that's not the only difficult memory that needs your time and attention.
"Every life transition causes a grief response, large or small," Tracee Dunblazier, a spiritual empath and author, tells Bustle. "Anything from a positive home move or a new job to the breakup of a short or long-term relationship. In fact, it is the build-up of many seemingly inconsequential shifts in life that we set aside and don't take the time to mourn that can cause a deeper more intense emotional collapse (grief response) down the line."
And that's where repressed memories can come into play. "We don't actively repress — in fact we repress automatically when things are traumatic — so instead we tend to try and forget, try to move on, and what we end up doing is deploying other defense mechanisms," Dr. Josh Klapow, clinical psychologist and host of The Web Radio Show, tells Bustle. "We rationalize, or compartmentalize, in order to just 'forget it' and move on."
But that's not entirely healthy. By holding in emotions, forcing yourself to forget, or simply skimming over situations that may require more time and attention, you could be setting yourself up for issues down the road. That's why experts say, in difficult situations like the ones below, you should allow yourself plenty of time to process the change, before moving on.
1A Job Loss
The loss of a job may not seem like something you need to mourn. But if it meant a lot to you, it'll be important to process what might have gone wrong, and what you can do differently next time, to ensure you — at the very least — learn from the situation.
"Sometimes a job (e.g. in the form of your job title) can feel like a source of pride and joy, woven into your identity," Dr. Perpetua Neo, executive coach and psychologist for High Achievers Globally, tells Bustle. If it becomes a huge part of your life that you enjoy, "then a job loss can feel debilitating. Or you can feel as though you don't know what to do next, [or] how to apply for another job."
When you don't process this loss, or what your job meant to you, it can make you feel stuck. So don't hesitate to mull it over. As Dr. Neo says, "I conducted a study ... on high performers globally who lost their jobs. Those who were resilient and who decided to use the situation as fuel to propel them forward had the best outcomes. Eventually they felt it was a blessing in disguise."
2A Tough Breakup
Breakups are tough, and the temptation to put them behind you as fast as humanly possible — or drown them out with new thoughts and new relationships — is definitely real. But you won't be doing yourself any favors by stuffing down the pain, or moving on too quickly.
"It is a great idea to give yourself time to mourn the relationship, learn, and grow from the events that transpired," self-care coach Stephanie Moir tells Bustle. "When we push away our emotions from a breakup we only prolong the mourning and it impacts us negatively. This can lead to you jumping into a relationship that you may not be ready for or bringing past emotions into your future relationship."
So give yourself a minute, talk to friends, maybe see a therapist, and then proceed, lest you repress some serious emotions that you should be dealing with. "The easiest and healthiest way to accept a relationship ending is to process it and not avoid it," Moir says. It may be tough, but it'll be worth the effort.
3The End Of A Friendship
The end of a friendship can be tougher, in some ways, then the end of a romantic relationship. We often think of friends as ride or die besties who will one day sit next to us in rocking chairs on a front porch somewhere, and talk about the "good old days." But, unfortunately, that's not always the case.
"Sometimes we grow apart from friendships that we thought would last forever," Moir says. "It is not easy to move on and accept that we have lost someone we had such beautiful memories with ... But friendships do end for a reason, and it is better to accept than dwell and let your emotions build." By sitting with your feelings, and accepting that the friendship ended, it can help you process your emotions and move on.
4A Major Birthday
It's common to feel depressed or conflicted when entering a new stage of life. In moments like these, it's natural to want to shield yourself from the full effects of the transition. But did you know it's actually healthier to face it and process it? Instead of, you know, hanging onto your past for dear life, often at the expense of enjoying the present.
"Any change in the status quo is difficult," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. "People tend to not like change because it makes them feel a lack of control. Dealing with [change] allows you to come up with an action plan to gain more of a sense of control. Also, dealing with emotions helps you to not internalize issues, which can lead to physical and emotional problems." So instead of digging your heels in, or lamenting the passage of time, try to embrace it instead.
5A Big Move
Moving to a new town, or even simply switching apartments, can be tougher on the emotions than you think. "Moving to a new home or town requires new habits, friends, and an environment that it takes time to get to know, while at the same time, living with feelings of attachment to the old friends, places, and things that are no longer as easily accessible, if at all," Dunblazier says.
And that's why you shouldn't allow yourself to repress or skim over any feelings you might be having, as you make this big transition. As Dunblazier says, "Taking time to process feelings of grief before or directly after this kind of transition will make it easier to be open to the inevitable new experiences awaiting you."
6An Injury Or Health Issue
If you've been injured, or have had a major health scare, this might be something you'll want to talk over with a therapist or loved one, to assess how it might have affected you emotionally.
"Getting physically injured is an immediate loss of power in some ways," Dunblazier says. "It changes how you navigate your world for either the short or long-term. Recognizing the need to grieve the loss of immobility or onset of pain in some way allows for a more efficient transition into the new habits that recovery requires."
So even though it may feel like something you're only going to have to cope with physically, don't forget the other ways it might be affecting your life. "It's important never to underestimate how not being able to do things as you used to can make you feel powerless," Dunblazier says. "Sometimes, unknowingly, that feeling of powerlessness becomes the lens we see other events or aspects of our lives."
7A Major Role Change In Life
It can be tempting to skim over major life changes — such as a marriage, or becoming a parent — without processing what that change might mean to you. But again, it's important to sit with the it and process it.
"These life challenges can stir up a lot of insecurities, and unhelpful thoughts and feelings," counselor Shannon Miller, LMSW tells Bustle. "Our emotional state can become very fragile. The urge to deny the impact it's having on us is strong because we believe we’re the only ones that could possibly feel this way. We believe we will be rejected if we admit to struggling with something."
But any major life shift has the potential to cause insecurities, and that's OK. "It’s only when we allow ourselves to process the difficult thoughts and feelings that they release their grip over us," Miller says. "When we acknowledge their presence and work through them, their influence over us diminishes." And you'll be more likely to move on from big changes, upsets, and breakups in a healthy way — so it won't come back to bite you, and be even more difficult to deal with later on.