Dynamic Choices » Family Wellness

Transitions – From Letting Go to New Beginnings


Being a caregiver of someone with any chronic illness requires resilience and an ability to adjust to ongoing changes. The changes may be large and planned on the long term or they may be adjustments and adaptations to daily situations.

William Bridges in his book entitled “Managing Transitions” makes an interesting distinction between a change and a transition. Change is doing something in a different way and a transition is the emotional and psychological adaptation to the change.  As we change what we do we must also notice what we are feeling as we go.

How might that apply to your role as a caregiver of a loved one with a challenging chronic illness? See how your own experience might fit under these 3 stages that Mr. Bridges suggests are necessary for us to adapt successfully to a transition and a change in our life.


This is the stage where you grieve the losses you anticipate from the change. It might be a smaller change like adjusting your work schedule or a larger change requiring you to hire some additional outside care support. Whatever the change, it is healthy and normal for you to experience a sense of sadness for what you used to have. It is important to share these feelings with others and not to rush head long into all the “doings” of making the practical change. Perhaps you need to write in a journal or join a support group to have a safe place to honour and express the sadness and loss you are experiencing.


This is the stage where you may feel lost and uncertain about what to do or where to go. You know the old ways of doing things won’t work anymore but you haven’t quite figured out what else to do instead. Your energy sags, your motivation to do anything can disappear and you may feel confused. This stage, however, is also a stage of imagination and creativity. It is the time when you need to seek outside resources, problem solve what solutions you might try and plan ahead for situations you anticipate might be around the next corner. It is the stage where you might consider joining a support group to tap into their wisdom and experience, ask your doctor for a referral to a physiotherapist so you don’t have to hurt your back lifting or hire someone to visit one day a week so you can get a much needed break. It is the stage where you begin to consider ideas and solutions that will have a positive impact on your situation. You may be tentative at first and spend considerable time weighing the different options but you are on the road to developing a plan.


This is the stage where you begin to find your footing again and identify some ways of adapting and coping that you believe will make a positive difference in your life. Your energy returns as you begin to see the impact of the practical changes and your life begins to feel different.   Rather than focusing on what you have lost, you are now able to see successful ways of adjusting your life. You begin to reconnect to hope. The companion worker you hired turns out to be wonderful and the bath chair you bought has given your back a rest from lifting. Life feels easier. Your confidence in your ability as a caregiver strengthens as you embrace the successful changes you have made.


What changes are you being asked to make in your life as you care for a loved one with long term symptoms? What has the impact been on you and how have you felt about it? Have you felt confused, disoriented, sad or lost? Have you shared these thoughts with someone else or have you pretended that you didn’t really mind changing that much?

This process of adapting to the many changes and transitions of chronic illness is normal. It is a healthy adaptation to changes of all types in all walks of life. You are not unique in finding it difficult, confusing, and sad. The stage of new beginnings celebrates your resilience and creativity in finding new ways to adapt when the old ways don’t work anymore. It is but one of the many gifts you bring as a caregiver to your friend or family member as you care both for them and for yourself.