Transitions happen in family, health, work and ministry situations, age, geography--you name it. There are transitions made in community: families, a task force, a church, a ministry team, college buddies, military units, band members. For those communities formed for some goal, once the goal is reached, the community disbands. In some, transition is not an occasional event, but a constant companion.
There are external and internal dynamics to transition. An external event might trigger transition, and an internal dynamic begins. Or an internal stirring begins, leading to external changes.
You may have time to prepare for a transition, such as for an upcoming move; you may not, as when you are laid off from a job.
If you have time to prepare, you can perhaps process enough internally that the external changes are made relatively painlessly. Or you may have to undergo the external transition first, and then begin the internal adjustments.
Transition always involves grief. In order to relinquish the past and embrace the new, I must grieve my losses. Transition involves loss and letting go, an acceptance of the new, and an identity change. If you are the one leaving, you may be distracted by the new and short-circuit the grieving process; if you are the one left behind, you are not distracted by any new adventure, and feel the grief more acutely immediately.
Keys to Successful Transition:
- identify the loss(es)
- sit with the feelings; don't deny them or repress them; let yourself feel the pain
- express it/them: to others, in your journal, or to God in prayer. Externalize your thoughts and feelings.
Ok, now for some exercises...
For those in some phase of transition, what emotions are you experiencing? Make a short list of words or short phrases that capture these.
What type of internal processor are you? Do you need a lot of time, or prefer to just jump in to transition? Assuming you have the time to prepare, when are you most likely to internally process transition? Months, weeks, or days before? Prepare to do so. If you prefer to delay until you're in the thick of things, make the internal commitment not to get overwhelmed later by your choice today!
Now, between now and my next post, watch these clips, and jot down the various transitions you see. Which character, or which transition, do you identify with the most? The clips will take you about 20-25 minutes to watch.
The Fellowship Reunited
The Return of the King
The Threads of an Old Life
Journey to the Grey Havens
I'll give you some time, because tomorrow, I transition from this little retreat in Colorado to the New Jersey Shoreline! Yes, a beach vacation is in my future, where I will reconnect with my inner beach bum, and contemplate my upcoming transitions as the sun sets, the gulls wheel overhead, and the toes curl up in the sand. I need no time to process how I feel about that!
But I do feel a pang of regret at the thought of leaving a place I've come to love, and a time that has been defining. Feeling grateful, but sad to leave friends and colleagues I may not see again for years. There, I've externalized it!
O, Transition, you are a constant companion...