Support Systems and Career Grief When Leaving the Classroom
When deciding to make a career change, it is essential to have a solid support system. The individuals who support you can help you with all of the stages of your career transition. When leaving the classroom, a common emotional response may be to grieve the career your are leaving. Dr. Lindsey Cavanagh offers guidance on how to lean on your support system and process grief.
The Great Teacher Resignation
Well, Ali, we made it to episode two. Woohoo.
We did. And we have our first guest on the show today.
Yes, we do. And I think we're gonna learn a few things but I had an idea. What do you think about doing some shout outs before we get started?
I love that. Can I go first?
Go for it.
How about the listeners who tuned in for our first episode?
Yes, epic shout out to everybody that listened.
I have to tell you, we greatly appreciated every DM, text and email. We created this podcast for you. So we're gonna stick around.
I agree. I think the DMS were very reassuring. So I want to give a shout out to our very creative graphic designer Avery Gibson who made our logo. And I also want to give a shout out to David DuPuis for his friendship and his willingness to roll with my business antics, and helping us get this podcast off the ground. So when we talk in episodes about networking, they're examples of the close knit network that I have that helped with a project like this. So thank you. Well, now I think we can just get right to it.
Great. And today's our first subject matter expert interview, so our listeners will be able to hear from someone other than just the two of us.
That's right. And, Ali, I'm going to let you do the honors since you made the connection with this guest.
So today, I'm really excited for our guest that we have on, Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh. JoDee, as you know, I've been connected with Lindsey since my beginning time as a military spouse. She's a clinical psychologist, turned relationship coach. And she's also the host of Married to Military, a podcast that discusses all the challenges of being Married to Military. So today, we're having Lindsay on the show, because she is a subject matter expert. She works with couples. And I know that part of JoDee's journey and part of my journey, we're talking to our partners about making such a big change in our lives. And so we'll start with that question today. How do you talk to your partner about wanting to make a career change?
Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh 2:39
So first of all, thank you so much for having me, and congratulations to you guys for getting this off the ground. That's very exciting. Um, and I think that the questions that you're bringing up is a really good one, because I also made a career change, you know, I was a psychologist and then had to, I shifted into sort of the online coaching world. And there's a lot of barriers being in the military as a result of that. And I think that when it came to talking about my spouse, the first thing that I wanted to get really clear on is what do I want? Like, what do I need? Because if I don't know, I sure as heck know that my my spouse isn't going to figure that out on his own. So it was really a lot of like my own self reflection first, and what does that look like? And what do I want? And what do I want to feel in in my new path? And how do I, how do I want my hours to look? And how do I right? So it was like really big picture stuff. And then I started to fill in the details from there and trickle down. And part of that trickling down was, How can my spouse support me in this? What will I need from him? What do I want from him, and then it was kind of going in and talking um from it from that angle. So I could really talk about like, the big picture stuff that I was looking for. And I could get into, and here's really what I need from you to just to help support me to get there and make sure it was, you know, things that I knew that he would do and then he'd be willing to do and then kind of at least get the conversation started. And I think that like me going in just being so excited. And he could see how much more excited I was about the shift. And he could see just the mood change, you know, kind of gets him excited as well. So he always said that he's like, I don't know how to help you. But I want to. I like this for you. So that's kind of how I did it. And I've certainly worked on this with some other couples as well.
One of the things you said really stood out to me that you had to figure out what you wanted and what that looked like and and then bring it to your partner. And the second part was about your partner noticing when you made that change what that was like. And that's really what I want to focus on. I talk to my spouse about that a lot too. Like, I've actually changed a couple of different jobs since I've left teaching. And I'll ask my husband, I'll say, Do you think I'm less stressed out now was in this other job or in the classroom? And, and he can really see, from a different perspective, how I've been acting, what, you know, like, have I've been super stressed out like Have I not been able to do the things that I want to do like, I really enjoy cooking dinner, like, sometimes I can't do that, depending on what job I have, or I really like spending time with my kids after school. And sometimes I wasn't able to do that, depending on my career. So that's so helpful to hear from you. That that that's not unique to me like that, no ours that our spouses can share. Maybe they can't tell us what to do, right? Because they don't, they don't know what we should do, we have to figure that is that inner journey and inner discovery, but they can support us by being observers. And by, by offering I think the emotional support.
I think my spouse was the first to notice my change in emotion and behavior. I can remember one morning, just not being able to get out of bed and saying, I don't, I don't know what I'm doing. And you know, he couldn't read my mind or read my feelings, because I was in this point of self discovery, but he could hug me and say, let's talk about it. You know, what are you feeling? What are you saying, and just being that support system, because he could tell like, I haven't seen this before in you. I haven't seen you not want to get out of bed. So it was a red flag to him, that kind of gave me the strength to start saying the things I was feeling because my my body was reacting to it. And then that's where I had to go deeper into learning about my own journey. And, but it was interesting, he was the first to be alerted about that.
Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh 6:55
Yeah. And I will say that my spouse also was the first to really see how much happier I was. Whereas I knew I was feeling happy. But I don't even think I realized how much happier I was. And he reflected that back to me and saying, man, like you're just you are so much less stressed and you, you just are so much more excited. And again, the more excited I am about it, he just really wants to be on board he likes, he likes that I am feeling this. And I like that I'm feeling it. And it sort of helps to kind of motivate all of us to keep going.
I think it's really reassuring when you have someone that you love giving you like that pat on the back. So what about our listeners who maybe aren't married? They don't have a partner right now? What would you suggest for them, who should they, you know, seek support from?
Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh 7:47
I think that it always comes down to and really I will say even if you are partnered, like I think really thinking about this is who's the person who you can go to who is going to have no judgment against you who's gonna right, who's who's just going to listen, who's going to be there who may ask some questions that are important for you. But that that isn't going to really judge you or that you feel you have to censor yourself because this time is really when you need your mind as open as possible to what can happen. And I'll give an example of this where my mom and I talk every day, we have a very close relationship. That being said, she's very like, fixed in how she thinks about things. So if I'm wanting to just brainstorm and, and really think about ideas, she might not be the very first person I go to when it comes to something like this. Where I'm going to think about who is in my network, that will just listen that will just be there that will just reflect back things that maybe I need to hear and, and kind of go from there. And and if you don't have this person in your life, this is a great place to start to is really thinking about like, How can I? How can I seek these out? I know that there are so many groups for people who are doing career change, even kind of support groups to just, you know, social groups too. So I think that if you can't identify a person that's already in your network, that would be kind of my next go to cause it's going to be hard to change. And you're going to have a million doubts about yourself and your decision and you really want that person there that can just be like no, no, remember when you said this and how excited you were. And so that's I would just for everybody, and I certainly have those people that are more than even just my spouse that can also provide that same level of support for me. So I think that just that support in and of itself, regardless of if you're partnered or not is really helpful.
And I agree I lean on my spouse a lot but I also I have some very close friends that I can lean on to, because sometimes my, my husband's not available. And so it's nice to have more than just one person in your corner if you're able to do so.
Yeah. And you mentioned self doubt, I was really feeling that a lot of self doubt. You know, like I was in a career where I felt confident, to do all the things I needed to do. And then when I was kind of stepping back, my self confidence plummeted. But my husband was a cheerleader. For me. The people that were close to me, who believed in me, were the cheerleaders because I couldn't cheerlead myself, you know, I was having a hard time talking myself up and giving myself the confidence to take the next step. And I needed them for that reassurance.
Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh 10:47
Totally agree, I think that it's funny how I was a psychologist for 14 years. So very confident in my ability, very confident going to work. I just had no doubts, and switching into coaching, which honestly, isn't that different, like I'm doing all of the same stuff. But it felt so different than it felt. And and so I did, I had all of these, you know, wobbles, as I call them. And, you know, so I think that having someone again, even a career counselor is a really great person who's going to be non judgmental, who, again, doesn't even need to be in your network that just you can go and say anything to, but just having someone that can one normalize that yeah, it's really normal to doubt yourself, it's really normal and, and remind you of how great you are, because you'll you'll need those moments for sure.
And JoDee talks a little bit in episode one about her journey to deciding to transition out of the classroom. And I didn't really talk as much about my journey. After I left, which was not I didn't know I was gonna leave forever. And I missed teaching so much, because it was such a part of who I was. Same thing, when I would meet someone, we moved to a new city, I would meet someone they'd say, Oh, so nice to meet you. What do you do?
How do you how do you think we became friends?
Yeah, of course. You were a teacher too? Like, oh, my gosh,
Let me corner her at the park.
What did you teach? Like, we all want to know these things. But but it's hard because you don't have that part of your identity. And, and even if you transition careers immediately, right? If you transitioned into something that's very different from teaching, then you may go through what I went through which I really grieved this loss of my career of my identity, it was a really difficult time. And I'm wondering, could you shed some light on what someone could do when they're going through that grief stage?
Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh 12:49
Absolutely. I had a very similar situation to you, Ali, because we were stationed in Portugal. And so I was not allowed to work due to the visa that I was there under. I can go with my spouse, but I wasn't allowed to work. So it was sort of a forced resignation in some ways. And I really struggled like I was, I am not built to be a stay at home parent, I became very resentful I was I was an unhappy human, I will say, and and then so not only was I dealing with kind of the grief, at that point I also then when I decided I wasn't going to go back and be the traditional psychologist, you know, there was some grief there. And I think the biggest thing to remember with grief is that there are multiple stages and phases of it. So there can be kind of a denial phase, a sadness phase, an anger phase, kind of a resignation, you know, they call it even a bargaining where if I do this, maybe I can still feel you know, this, and but you know, you're just sort of working it out. And I think the biggest thing when it comes to grief is allow yourself to feel it all, the biggest thing that we can do to extend any emotion is trying to not feel it, is trying to suppress it. Whereas if we give our emotions the space, they actually don't last very long. The research shows that the average emotion only lasts about seven minutes. And so what keeps it going beyond those seven minutes is are we trying to somehow avoid it? Or are we trying to are we somehow fueling it beyond that? The example that I give is, if I say to you all, whatever you do, do not think about a pink elephant. You can think about anything else except for a pink elephant. Now, my guess is that all three of us and all the listeners out there you're thinking about elephant, right? And that's just one What we do, and it's the same thing for emotion. So I think that recognizing that you are going to have grief, even if you know that this decision is the absolute best decision for you, you still will have grief, it is normal and and then just allow it to come like whatever that means, let it play out if you feel sad that day, feel sad, and just try not to get stuck into any one place.
And the grief can happen at different parts. So just saying, you know, if you're transitioning, that might not be the thing that you feel first, you might you might feel excited, you might feel ready. You might feel guilt, it might not be grief, but it's possible that grief could come later, maybe it won't, but there is no set timeframe for that.
Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh 15:49
Well, and even guilt can be kind of worked in there too. I think that just recognizing that even with great decisions could potentially come some not so great feelings, and just being aware that they might happen and being okay, when they do happen, I think and you're right, being ready for any, any time it comes up is ideal.
Absolutely. And I mean, I want to share that one thing that helped me tremendously in that grief stage. And when I was getting ready to go into a new career was seeing a therapist, it just helped me so much. It allowed me to have someone talk to me about the things that maybe I was scared to talk to my spouse about.
And I feel like just podcasts in general are a way to to listen to things that are similar and topic of what you're thinking about without having to say it out loud yet. Like maybe I have to hear other people talk about it first. And then I'm like, Okay, now I'm ready to talk about it.
Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh 16:46
agreed and podcast, you can just listen right while you're, you know, doing the dishes or why you do it when I go on walks. And I just feel like it's a nice way to to feel normal without having to put yourself out there too much yet.
Absolutely. And I think what's really important about the great teacher resignation is that we want to have real people with real stories and real experience. And I just want to thank you so much. Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh today for joining us and for sharing your own experiences and your experience as a therapist. To hear more from Dr. Lindsay Cavanagh. Check out her podcast Married to Military and follow her Instagram handle @marriedtomilitary.