How to recognise the emotions of change

How to recognise the emotions of change

Before I left for Paris I was an Internal Communications Manager at a large public sector organisation.  One of my areas of expertise was change management; helping senior leaders manage and guide their people through significant change.

The irony is I find change hard. I am a creature of routine and habit; I like to know that the ground is safely beneath my feet.

Wednesday night was my mum’s running night. I’d always have a lamb masala dosa at Dosa n Chutney. I like to know what I am expecting – no surprises please!

This got me thinking about the recent impact of change on our family and how we are reacting to it. This got me thinking about the Change Curve.

Kubler-Ross Change Curve


The Change Curve was originally developed in the 1960s, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to help people understand the grieving process.

I’m sure you have all heard about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Kubler-Ross proposed the curve and its associated emotions could be used to predict how people might react to other significant changes in their lives.

Going through change is tough, and when you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to understand the feelings and emotions that can hit you from seemingly nowhere. Having a line of sight of the curve can help anticipate what might be round the corner and help you be prepared.

The original five stages of grief has been adapted been over the years.  I have found it useful to group the emotions into three stages.

  • Stage 1: Shock & denial
  • Stage 2: Anger & depression (sadness)
  • Stage 2: Acceptance & integration

Where are we on the change curve?

Since moving to Paris we all have been careering along this curve, and we’re all at different places and we’re dealing with change in our own way.

The kids

The kids have move on from anger. The tantrums have lessened and we are blamed less and less for the move.

But they are sad. They feel the impact of the loss of old friends, school and family.  We’re filling the gaps with new activities, new friends and new things to do and see.

Super Girl has been dealing with this particularly well. For Christmas she received a Secret Safe Diary and she’s been tapping away entering her feelings on a daily basis. It seems to have helped. As she remarked the other day: “Ellie is my best friend, but she’s not here. I have to make new friends so I can be happy here. Ellie is in my head, I won’t forget her.”

For Wonder Boy it’s been a tougher experience. We’ve had a week of getting in trouble at school, not listening, being rude, and plenty of back-chat (he’s a master of that!).

After an awful evening of being shouty mum we finally got to the crux of things. He’s desperately homesick, and there are some pre-adoption issues we need to try and resolve.

We’ve agreed there has to be more time for fun. He’s going to do a project on his favourite magician Dynamo, and have a bit of special time with mum and dad.

There are some good things that are helping him to get out from the bottom of the curve. He’s joined the international boys scout movement (he was a cub in London), and he’s joined a chess club. He’s looking forward to beating the French kids.

Adapting to change is a slow process and for every move up the curve it’s easy to slide back down. But recent comments make me see Wonder Boy and Super Girl are starting to see the benefits of their new life:

  • Wonder Boy: “We get to spend more time with you.”
  • Super Girl: “You aren’t always going to meetings”
  • Wonder Boy: “We see more of Daddy.”

Me & King of the Mountains

I’m moving out of the sad phase, things are looking much brighter. I’m learning the language, starting to make friends, and starting to enjoy my life in Paris. You can’t beat a run along the Seine.

King of the Mountains, the instigator of this change, he’s pedalling up the curve through right through stage three from acceptance to integration, pulling us slowly behind.

Picture credit, Paul Whitehouse, Flickr, adapted using Canva

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