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When Sudden Change Hits, Being Present Is Half the Battle


Sudden change is a reality of human life. And it presents challenges on many different levels.

Maybe it's something that happens to you and throws everything up into the air, taking your breath away. And sometimes it's a friend's or a colleague's life that's turned topsy-turvy. However it arrives, sudden change often wreaks havoc with plans and schedules and leaves you feeling disoriented and unmoored.

Sudden Change Hits Home

I recently learned of a sudden loss suffered by a friend and colleague. My heart immediately went out to her. And one of the things I realized was that her loss had awakened similar losses for me.

So, not only was I feeling badly for her, but my own remembered griefs were reawakened.

Sudden Change: Sorting Things Out

I wanted to be supportive to her, and yet, I saw that I was having some fresh feelings about a particular loss of my own. So, in order to be fully present to my friend, I needed to sort out my own feelings and give myself some needed support before turning my attention to her.

This is so vital, because you can't see clearly or offer what your friend needs when your own suddenly-awakened needs are asking for your attention.

Sudden Change: 3 Timely Tips

Here are 3 Timely Tips (and Action Steps) to help you sort out your feelings, get your feet on the ground, and be present when a friend or colleague needs your support in the midst of sudden change.

#1: When a friend's crisis strikes a raw nerve for you, begin by addressing your own feelings independently.

Action Step: Avoid the temptation to 'rush to the rescue' when you identify strongly with a friend's misfortune. When you allow yourself and your friend needed space to sort things out, you learn valuable lessons about yourself and your own feelings. Take a breath and settle into yourself before acting.

#2: Ask, don't guess, what a friend in crisis might need.

Action Step: Instead of assuming you know what a friend needs, ask! Everyone's experience is different, and what feels helpful to you may not be for your friend. Commit to a way you can help that aligns with your time constraints, comfort level, and values. Don't over-reach - follow through is important - especially when the rest of life feels off-kilter.

#3: When big, sudden changes hit, expect to ride a roller coaster.

Action Step: Energy naturally peaks and drops when you face a sudden change or want to support a friend in crisis. Safeguard your time and your health by giving yourself some leeway. Expect things to take at least twice as long as usual, and plan accordingly. This relieves unnecessary stress and allows you to focus your energies where they are most needed.

Simply being present to a friend in crisis is probably the best gift you can give. I hope that these tips are helpful to you.

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