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Navigating the Wake of Change: How to Steer Through Life’s Turbulent Waters

For a season in my life, I kayaked on a river near my home. I loved being on the water – floating at times with the current or pushing my kayak upstream with my energy. The river was often nearly empty of other boats. I quickly learned that there were also peak times when the waters were stirred by passing boats pulling water skiers. Trailing behind speedboats and skiers was a massive wake of water. In a much slower boat, I had to stay alert to the changing action of the trailing water. 

Thinking about it now, I see that changes and losses also create great wakes in our lives. 

A wake, that big wide trail of water, has its own expanding energy and motion.  Slowly the energy of it changes from large waves to ebbing ripples. The stillness of the moment is broken by the sounds of the boat and the motion of a wake. 

Major life changes can feel as if they are a single event – the death of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a job. Yet, the event can leave behind a massive trail – the wake bringing with it additional changes and challenges that must be faced. In a kayak the safest way to handle the wake is to turn towards it. The nose of my kayak pointing directly into the oncoming wake rather than the side of my boat rocking or becoming awash with the moving water. 

Life changing events can feel a lot like being rocked and rolled by the wash of the speeding boat. Sometimes events happen so quickly that it is impossible to turn your boat towards the oncoming wake. Other times, you may have just enough time and energy to move towards the wake – pointing your boat into it. 

Either way, the single event leaves behind a trail of challenges to be met. 

It can be hard to know just what to tackle as these wake-filled moments arrive. Determining what is immediately urgent, what is necessary but can be handled when time allows or what is not urgent or perhaps even necessary. 

There are many ways to remain curious when adjusting to the waves left in the wake of major life changes. 

One way to handle the wake is to look towards the arriving tide. Consider what is happening in and around you. Look for clues to identify the most pressing concerns or needs. 

First and foremost, are you safe? Depending upon the circumstances, the immediate assistance you might need is safety. Is there someone who can come and stay with you? Or are there safe spaces and people with whom you can stay? 

Are there others in the wake that may need your help? 

Or are there people in your life willing to join you in the wake to support your efforts? Who might those people be? What strengths, expertise, or experience can they provide in assisting you in this process? Can you muster the energy to ask for help?

Identifying your needs as you turn and face the oncoming waves can help you see what your next steps might be.  You may already be past an emergent situation and moving into exploring the decisions of an expanded understanding of the impact of this change. As you continue to define and redefine your needs, the resources you will seek will be different too. Wherever possible, give yourself grace. Give yourself generous time and spacious room to figure out just what is it you need and want. You can treat yourself just as kindly and caringly as you would if you were caring for a friend in your situation. 

Remember, too, that the wake itself doesn’t last forever. Whatever your circumstances, it won’t always feel this way. When you can, check in with your body – allow your shoulders to sink away from your ears. Take a break. Walk out into the sun even if for just a few minutes. Breathe deeply. Trust that the process you are going through is sacred and life-giving.

In what ways can you prepare yourself to not only endure but also learn from the turbulence of life’s unexpected events? Consider the tools, support systems, or personal practices you might engage in to better handle and grow from life’s challenges.

If this resonates with you, let’s chat!​

A watershed moments coach can come alongside your experience of grief and loss providing support, encouragement, education about the nature of grief and insight that can assist you as you mourn. Collaborating with a coach is an investment in finding your way forward after a significant life change.  Connect with us for a brief introductory conversation where we will explore whether we are a fit for your current grief needs.  Click here to schedule a no-charge, 20-minute conversation where we will learn more about one another.