How to Deal With Sudden Changes and the Unknown

Being forced to deal with sudden changes in your life or the unknown can be really unnerving. The COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent example. The article “That Discomfort You Are Feeling is Grief” is about how sudden changes and the unknown in our life can feel like grief. This idea may sound a bit crazy, but when you think about it, that concept makes sense.

Grief is about the loss of what existed before something changed. Webster’s dictionary defines “grief” as “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement.”   It also uses the definition as a “mishap” or “misadventure.” Those last definitions hit home for me.

The majority of us have felt pretty “comfortable” in the life we have in terms of knowing what it involves. We have some idea of the possible results. It’s the result that gives us a peek at the final emotions of that particular experience. If we can’t estimate the final result, then how do we know how it will genuinely feel? How do we know we will be okay?


Using Past Experiences as Your Compass to Navigate the Unknown

Those who are old enough to remember back to 9/11 or even further back to the Cuban Crisis can remember those feelings pretty well. The “unknown” can be scary because how do you know you will be okay if you don’t see the outcome? I remember both events.

When the Cuban Crisis occurred, I was very young and visiting my aunt and uncle back East. I remember just wanting to fly home to my parents for comfort. Flying back home is exactly what I did.  I wanted to be with people who knew and loved me and would keep me as safe as possible because of their love. I didn’t know if we all would be okay in the end. But what I remember is wanting to be with whom I felt most safe, regardless of the outcome.

The advantage of having experienced difficult times in the past is that you can look back and recognize similar feelings of the “unknown.”  If you have not experienced something scary with unknown results, it’s a bit more challenging to navigate the waters. Some people may feel blessed in never experiencing a difficult time in life. Or, those people may feel a bit like a “fish out of water” as the old saying goes. Not fully knowing how to navigate previously unknown events is, at the very least, uncomfortable.


Deciding How We Will Deal With Sudden Changes and the Unknown

The reality is that we all have a choice regarding how we deal with sudden changes. Do we accept the possibility of a negative outcome? Sometimes we can prepare for that. However, if a situation involves unknown factors, it’s more of a challenge to prepare ourselves. Often you may hear the phrase “preparing for the worst-case scenario. ”  If we prepare for the worst and realize we will still “survive” that difficult time in our life, then we know we will still be “okay.”

Another option is to focus on decisions that afford us more choices in what we can do to feel better. Finding other options that have a more positive outcome give us hope of good things in the future. It’s a feeling that we will be alright.

For example, do you choose to take chances and go against the recommended plans to isolate yourself from other people? Or instead, do you isolate yourself as much as possible, and choose the recommended precautions mandated/suggested by your situation?

Some people don’t like others telling them what to do. Some folks may choose not to comply with the recommendations of their particular state. Or maybe this is a decision made by a boss. Do you follow what is being asked? Or do you choose to buck the system and do what you want?


Sudden Changes Are Also Times of Personal Growth

People who have experienced sudden changes in their life often develop a sense of strength they have inside to get them through difficult times. It provides some sense of comfort that they have faith or belief in themselves to find their way through a difficult situation.

Some people will experience difficult times and learn what works for them and what doesn’t. Our experiences in life are how we learn how to deal with a challenging situation. Do we manage our fears well enough to determine the best path of resolution?

Or do we make decisions out of fear or rebellion that result in negative experiences? We all have a choice of how we cope in life. We can learn from our mistakes or continue to bump up against what knocks us down. We can grow, or we can stay with the ways we already know whether they work well or not.  It’s our choice.


Final Thoughts

Challenging times are just that – challenging! We can grow from them or we can dig our heels in the sand and not budge. I choose to grow and to feel stronger inside. Feeling empowered to withstand difficult times feels much better to me than to live in fear of the unknown. We all get to choose our path. What’s yours going to be?

Get help if you feel your mental health is being negatively affected. Most insurance companies in California are picking up the cost of online psychotherapy during this crisis. Check with your insurance provider to see if your policy qualifies. Take care.

Further Reading:  Please check out some of my articles that relate to dealing with difficult times.

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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