rebuilding after a life shift.

This is Part 2 an extension of Life Shift: Finding your Way Forward When Everything Changes. I am glad this idea has resonated and people have been able to find themselves in the rhythm of this story. If you need a little review, go read the first post.

I wanted to spend a little time fleshing out the framework of Rebuilding after a major life shift. These particular movements are exactly the same as the ones in Faith Shift, and seem to be helpful in the practice of finding new life on the other side of loss and change beyond only things of faith.

A life shift could be a job loss, health crisis, death, divorce, ministry-dream-dashed, kid-derail, or a countless list of other things that somehow shifted the trajectory we were on and now we’re trying to find our way forward.

When we experience a loss or radical change, we often lose the structures or groups we were a part of. The loss of containers brings the loss of relationships connected to that container. This can often be painful and hard. When we lose structures and relationships, many of us end up losing our identity. We know who we were before a life shift, but we’re not sure who we are on the other side of it.

At some point after Unraveling or possibly Wallowing for a while, it’s time to move forward, no matter how slowly or awkward it is.

Here are some practices we can try as we begin the messy, unpredictable, beautiful, and hard work of Rebuilding. Remember, these are broad strokes; you may not agree with them all or probably have other ideas to add. They’re not all-inclusive, but they seem to help some of us move forward.

Honor the Losses

This is a friendly reminder that any kind of loss is real. When a relationship ends, a person dies, a dream is dashed, a kid leaves, our health turns a completely unexpected direction, it creates loss. With loss is grief, and it’s crucial to remember that grief will continue to come in waves over time. It’s normal, and we seem to do better when we expect it.

Discover What Remains

What’s left after a life shift? What do we still know to be true? What relationships are left? What can we still rely on? What remains in the mix even though so many other things have changed? What still bring us hope? Discovering what remains is an important exercise because it reminds us that although much has changed, usually there’s at least one thing (and often more) to help anchor us.

Celebrate What Was

This part is not easy for everyone, but it’s worth attention. Celebrating what was is looking back at life before the shift and celebrating that good. It’s remembering that even in a failed marriage, there were positives and things to celebrate that came out of it. It’s honoring memories and the ways we might have grown or developed during the season before this. It’s redeeming pain. It’s honoring the past.

Find What Works

When everything changes, we lose our mojo. We aren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves, and it’s important to explore practices, actions, and people that settle us, soothe us, strengthen us, encourage us. This looks different for all of us, but it’s worth the work to find specific things that help bring life again in big or small ways. We might have to try some different things to see what resonates, but it’s all about cultivating practices that help with movement and hope.

Igniting Passions

While finding what works is centered on stabilizing and strengthening practices, igniting passions is more about pursuing dreams and passions on the other side of a life shift. It could mean education, a class, a dream to fan into flame, creating art, serving in a ministry in your area of passion, anything that might been on the back burner and needs some fuel.

Exploring Possibilities

This is centered on finding possibilities for community. Life shifts can often leave us lonely, untethered, and a little lost. Part of exploring possibilities might be trying new faith communities, support groups, affinity groups, social justice or activism movements, or any other gatherings that help nurture life. Growing new roots that nourish us usually doesn’t happen quickly or in the very first moment we show up somewhere, but instead requires patience, vulnerability, and a lot of resilience and flexibility. Over the long haul, though, it’s worth it.

Honoring losses, discovering what remains, celebrating what was, finding what works, igniting passions, and exploring possibilities. These aren’t formulas guaranteed to work, but they are practices you can engage with that might help with rebuilding.

There are two other reminders for rebuilding as you find your way forward after everything changes:

  1. Trust the path ahead
  2. Keep practicing resurrection

Because Rebuilding is all about real life, it’s probably going to be bumpy and messy and hard and tiring and weird and awkward and sad and wonderful and weird and surprising and sweet and shitty and lovely and ugly.

Regardless of the crazy paradoxes, keep walking, keep moving, keep practicing, keep trying, keep falling down and getting back up again. In one word, persist.

Keep practicing resurrection; remember that what was may have died but new life is always being born.

Peace and hope to you as you rebuild, brave and beautiful friends. It always helps to know we’re on the same road together.


ps: Here’s the Life Shift handout that all of this in one place if you want to use it as a guide.

Also floating around the internet, a post for October on Sheloves Magazine—Drinking Vodka Out of Frozen Turkeys and Goddamage at Patheos.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

One Comment

  • Thank you Kathy for another great article. I appreciate your suggestions on how to best move through life changes. I have shared your blog on Facebook. Thanks and Blessings Roland Legge


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