One of the formative songs I first heard in my friend’s basement when we were teenagers hanging out all Friday night playing records and ping pong was “Changes,” by David Bowie. It came up on my playlist the other day in the car, and it’s been in my head ever since. I suppose the reason it resonates still even after all these decades—and our loss of the great David Bowie—is because we never stop going through changes.

Yes, and change can be so painful sometimes! Even the changes we seek and desire are a difficult process once begun, and I can’t think of any change that does not include some loss in some way. Oftentimes we have rituals to help us deal with this loss; think of a child losing their tooth. We call upon the mythical Tooth Fairy and her seemingly endless supply of money to ease the discomfort of losing a literal part of ourselves so that we can continue growing up. But this is just a slight of hand, isn’t it? Parents replace the loss of one thing (tooth) with the addition of another (money), and in doing so reframe this loss from something sad into something glad.

Lots of adult changes, too, bring simultaneous loss and gain to our lives, and frequently we are so thrilled at what we’re gaining that we don’t even consider the loss inherent in that change. Think of a couple welcoming their first child into their family. Of course they’re enthralled by the miracle and magic a newborn baby brings. It is all pride and joy, and the struggles to learn how to feed, diaper, and comfort the baby are undertaken with glee. So it may not happen for quite some time, after months of sleepless nights, no alone time together, and the relentless pace of working and caring for others, that the new parents feel their losses: they are no longer free to drive to Vegas for the weekend, can no longer afford dinner and date night every weekend, and their social circle has shrunken to grandparents and other family. Still, though they may mourn the loss of their carefree youthful adult days, the greater feeling is their gain of a child, a family of their own, their growing hearts full of love.

Not all adult changes are this obvious to accept. So often we experience change like a marathon wrestling match, where sometimes the loss has you in a chokehold while other times you have a firm grasp on what you’re gaining. Sometimes what we have to let go of is a dream or a deeply felt desire, even though what we’re gaining is the realization of another dream or deeply felt desire of ours. We spend countless hours grappling with the pros and cons of this change, mourning our fading dreams, then pivoting to the excitement just around the corner, the new dream we have, the potential and possibility. I wish I could call upon the Change Fairy at these moments, to drop the shiny new coin of a growth in my hands and vanish so quickly and cleanly the loss such that I never really miss it.

Photo by PxHere

I think the first bit of advice I have for myself and for any of you who are also in mid-change is to allow yourself all the feels. If you’re feeling sad, feel it. Acknowledge your sense of loss, your sadness, your mourning time. You lost the bid on your dream house, the lover you were pursuing rejected you, or you lost the promotion you wanted. All of these are dreams, goals, that which we don’t have yet, I know, but they are no less real for never having come true. Our goals and dreams and desires fuel us, fill our tanks each day so we can get up, move about, live and work effectively. When we lose these dreams/goals/desires it’s like we’re running on empty. That takes a toll on us, and it’s okay to feel that toll, to acknowledge that burden.

Another thing I might suggest is to process your thoughts with other people. Talking transforms thinking. Our thinking impacts our wanting, just as our wanting impacts our thinking, and both thinking and wanting influence our feelings. I processed with my husband, and he let me whine and cry like a child who’s been told she can’t have that shiny toy in the store window. I processed with my therapist, who called to my attention the tantrum I was throwing because I hadn’t gotten my way. I processed with my mentor, who asked me how my inner adult might respond now that my inner child had had her chance. I processed with my friend, who reminded me that what I really wanted would find me regardless, even though it might not look as I had expected it would. All of these conversations, from my loving husband who let me emote in a judgment-free zone, to my therapist and mentor who offered me labels and perspectives on what and how I was feeling and being, to my friend who shone a light on the pros of this change, have helped me reframe my experience. I have been able, thanks to them, to reframe these changes I am going through in such a way that what I’m gaining pops and what I’m losing fades silently into the background.

Talking transforms thinking, and keeping in touch with our community—including the many versions of ourselves deep inside us—helps us reach, as Maslow would have it, self-actualization. Come to think of it, maybe Bowie missed something back in 1972 when he wrote that song: Time may change me, and I can trace time—by allowing myself to experience mindfully the changes I am going through.