Sunday, August 17, 2014

Transition Trauma

I first heard the term used in a nursing home about two weeks ago; since then, in that quirky way a thing begins to ping as soon as you hear about it, it's been showing up everywhere: transition trauma.  

"Dubbed 'transitional trauma' or 'relocation stress syndrome (RSS),' it's characterized by symptoms such as anxiety, confusion and hopelessness. Furthermore, the emotions involved in moving can trigger a physical reaction, especially in aging adults. Combine the physical and emotional toll, and the effects can take months from which to recover." (Huffington Post)

We were transitioning my mother from hospital to rehab in a nursing home.  While we grappled with the nursing staff on whether or not she would ever leave, Mom sat in her wheelchair, a ball of confusion and looping conversations, mostly just wanting to go home.

Today we brought my nephew back to college for his final year.  Always a stellar nephew, he is transitioning into such a Fine Young Man that I want to hug him relentlessly, take more pictures, freeze the good moments, and tie him to the bedpost so he can't go off and do something crazy like become an adult or something.

His parents, my sister and her husband, are preparing to relocate to another state; should they wait for Matt to graduate next May, or move now, as the housing market begins to turn against them? 

Monday I leave the Northeast, where I have spent the better part of the past two months transitioning with my family, to return to my home of the past 8 years, in the South, only to begin another transition.  My lease expires in December.  Where to next?  

A layer of complexity increases my own anxiety: financial losses meet looming retirement.  Increasing my cash flow while contemplating my next housing option has be to played against that backdrop.  As finances collapse, do I retire early and take my losses, or slug it out four more years?  Slug on, the counselors, strangers, and my inner compass agree.  Relocate now to where I want to retire (those sames voices encourage), but where is that exactly?   Near my sister (yes, the voices nod)?   

O Transition, my constant companion....

"The realness of transitional trauma has led to the burgeoning of the cottage industry of move- management firms as 78 million baby boomers head into their retirement years,"  chirps the Huff.  I want to call one of those firms and ask them to solve my life for me, but I probably can't afford them.

The process of disorientation I quoted in my last post pales in comparison to what William Bridges calls the 'larger process of letting go of the person you used to be and then finding the new person you have become in the new situation." 

Letting go, and in search of that new person, I dedicate this post to my mother, nephew, sister and brother-in-law in transition, and to those of us in the family navigating with them.  

One day we'll all find ourselves on another shore, waving goodbye to the old selves, settling down in the skin of our new selves, perhaps with an adult beverage in hand, the kind with the little umbrellas.  May we do it well, with grace and style, and may we stay forever young.

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