STAGE ONE: Denial
Oh, there’s a new job opening? He probably won’t even get an interview. And even if he does, what are the chances that it’ll end in his favor? Right? Yeah! He most definitely won’t get that job.
STAGE TWO: Anger
Again?! Didn’t we literally just do this? I still haven’t unpacked all the boxes from our last move. I know I agreed to “go wherever he goes”, but this is ridiculous!
STAGE THREE: Bargaining
Maybe I don’t have to go with him. I mean, we operate 90% of the time without him anyway. Maybe the kids and I can stay here, just be for a year, to make sure he likes the school and the area.
STAGE FOUR: Depression
What’s the point? Move, unpack, make friends, find favorite places and then find out we are leaving. I will never see my friends again. I’ll never be able to visit my favorite places either. I’m just going to keep to myself at this new school. I don’t have the energy for new people. My heart can’t take it anymore.
STAGE FIVE: Acceptance
Alright, looks like we’re actually doing this. I can do this. It’s going to be okay. What are the new school colors? And what’s the mascot? I have to start finding some cute gear to wear to the games.
Unless you really, really didn’t like where you were moving from (and even then, moving is still hard), this tends to be a standard response. Our first couple moves, I didn’t realize I was experiencing these emotions (even with the training and understanding I had as a mental health therapist).
I guess I thought grief was reserved for the most serious of losses. And since I knowingly entered into this coaching lifestyle, I wasn’t supposed to feel these stages. I was just supposed to glide effortlessly into acceptance.
But, every time we moved, it was a change in my way of life. And whether it was willingly or not, grief would and should follow.
I have found that I pass through the first three stages relatively quickly, probably because it’s a recurring process.
It’s the last two stages that linger.
I thought in order to get to acceptance, I had to finish with depression first. When we moved last summer, I realized those two are not mutually exclusive, at least in terms of moving.
For the first time in 16 years and all the moves, I didn’t hide any of those stages or feelings. In the past, I'd tried to control them, mostly for coach but also to not offend all of the people I was meeting at our new school. I thought if I muffled the depression stage (or ignored it completely), I could sail right through to acceptance.
Honestly, it was exhausting. It left me with little to no strength to do anything else.
The most freeing thing I’ve learned is that it’s possible for a person to hold complete sadness and immense joy at the same time.
As a coach’s wife, you can move back and forth between depression and acceptance a thousand times a day for however long it takes. I literally had one foot in each stage for almost the entire past year. I’d be leaning with my entire body over into the acceptance stage. But, on more than one occasion, I’d get pushed back into depression with only my five toes anchoring me in acceptance.
It’s possible and it’s okay to be in both.
The heartbreak you experience from the relationships you had to leave behind and the traditions that now only exist as memories does not take away from the pride and excitement you are feeling for you new school and community.
It’s complicated. But handling complicated situations is a coach’s wife super power. You can do complicated things.