Many therapeutic approaches and counselling ideas are based on setting particular age ranges within which we experience aspects of our development, such as stages in childhood, moving on, moving in, moving out and growing old. While these provide helpful guidelines, life is not quite so simple or accommodating. Society provides us with rules about when we have to go to school, when we can get married, when we can drink alcohol, and many other markers through our lives but we also have to recognise that the changing nature of life as we age and mature is an individual and unique experience, even if we live according to social, cultural or religious rules and within legal requirements. This is partly due to the fact that as we move through the 21st century, societies’ views on personal development are in a state of fluidity and change.
An inescapable aspect of moving through life is loss. Loss of our innocence, loss of our youth, becoming or not becoming a parent and/or guardian, losing a loved one. We all know on a matter-of-fact basis that life changes but we don’t discuss loss and we especially avoid talking about death. This isn’t necessarily a surprise, death can be difficult to accept or too upsetting to have open conversations about. We can first encounter the natural order of life in our youth when, for example, we are very young and older relatives pass away. It is almost as though we are ‘programmed’ not to really comprehend this at a young age. However, should the ‘unnatural’ happen such as someone passing away prematurely, like a parent or a friend or even a child, these experiences can be very, very difficult to absorb and come to terms with.
At EASE Wellbeing, we see life transitions and development through stages of life as a real part of who we are in the here and now. In other words, the past and the future impact how we are in the present, we appreciate that how we go through life is not only shaped by where we came from but also where we are going. While we can accept that our lives are not infinite and that time is limited, we do not know when we will no longer be here. This can lead to living life in a reckless way that doesn’t value our mortality or being constricted in a way that becomes over protective.
For many clients we have found that the work in counselling and therapy allows for the temporary and changing nature of our journey through life to be embraced as opportunities for growth as well as accepting that loss must happen as part of the ever changing processes of life.