5 Ways to Handle Unexpected Change

“The only thing constant in life is change.” ~François de la Rochefoucauld

Change in life is inevitable. Many changes are planned or we have plenty of time to adjust to a coming change.

We go from being single to married.

We become parents.

We change careers.

We move.

These changes do bring stress to our lives, but they are usually welcomed and we view them as positive.

But what about when change is thrust upon us?Winter weather in Portugal

What happens when that change is inconvenient, sudden or even tragic? An accident, the death of a loved one, illness, relationship breakdown, job loss or a natural disaster can change the course of our lives in an instant.

All change brings with it the unknown. We leave behind what’s familiar and venture into unfamiliar territory.

It’s our human nature to fear the unknown. We want to avoid any sudden leaps into the unknown–we want to test the water with our toes, make a pros and cons list and get advice before making change.

This fear is why people often stay in abusive relationships, miserable jobs and other sad situations because staying with what is familiar often feels safer than taking that step into a life unknown.


For the last year and a half I had been adjusting to a major life change of getting divorced after 23 years of marriage. Although the change would bring the unknown, it was a change of my choice and it offered a period of adjustment.

That direction was changed last month near the end of the divorce process when my husband was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer–he was given 6 months without chemo and possibly a year to two with chemo.

Suddenly divorce wasn’t the path anymore–at least it wasn’t one that I felt was appropriate.


When things are going along as planned and suddenly they’re not, we’re caught off guard. The life we were creating is disrupted by what we perceive as an obstacle.

Our response to sudden change will determine what we learn from it, our level of growth and how we come out of it on the other side. The beauty that unfolds from change will be determined by how we handle it.

1. Let Yourself Feel

Allow yourself time to grieve what you have lost. That may be a person, an identity, a home, a lifestyle, a job, health, etc.

Part of the human experience is feeling emotions–the highs and the lows. We’re often expected to ‘Be Happy’ all the time.

That’s not realistic.

It’s okay to cry and feel it, but don’t get lost in it. Down feelings are normal but you want to move through them and not live in it.

2. Don’t Fight It–Go With It

Unexpected change is usually dropped in our laps and we are in shock. It’s like being in a room when the lights are suddenly turned off. We can’t see a thing for a while, but gradually our eyes adjust and our sight returns.

Accepting this change as one that must occur will make it easier to submit yourself to this season and let it take you where it leads. This doesn’t mean we aren’t proactive in our lives, but when something occurs outside of our control we need to ride with it.

Sort of like going into labor–the baby’s coming whether you like it or not, so you might as well work with it.

Embrace this time as an opportunity for growth.unexpected change

3. Look For the Constant

While adjusting to a new change find stability in something constant. Friendships, work, hobbies, church and a God who is always stable are areas we can find comfort in the constant. They will help us through the healing process.

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” ~Isaiah 33:6

4. Keep Moving

It’s easy to lose sight of our future when sudden change occurs. We become so focused on what’s happening that we lose sight of everything else.

Deal with the change but commit to taking action on future goals. Who knows – what you’re currently viewing as an obstacle to your goals may actually be the path you really need to be on to get there.

5. Build on Faith, Not Fear

Having faith that we can get through whatever is put before us is what will keep us moving. Feeding our fears will only keep us stuck.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ~Philippians 4:13


No life experience is without purpose.

We tend to want to label our experiences as either negative or positive, but instead of trying to measure them we would do better to simply embrace them. By doing that we are more likely to come out on the other side better for the having experienced the journey.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” –Jim Rohn


2 Responses to 5 Ways to Handle Unexpected Change

  1. Change will happen whether we like it or not, so we may as well like it! I like your comparison of change to the dimming of lights and that in time our eyes adjust and seeing becomes easier. I think that is so true, but I have never heard it put quite like that!

    I am sorry to hear about your husband, whether you were planning to get divorced or not, it’s still a difficult time for you both. Stay strong and take one day at a time.

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