Thresholds: Help During Transitions
Recently I was with a patient as he was dying. His body fought hard to stay alive and I sat with him, holding his hand, praying for him and singing, as he crossed over. He’d been homeless at the end of his life, and he was estranged from his family because of his choices. But nobody should die alone, so I stayed as long as I could.
As I watched him struggle, I was reminded of the labor it takes to give birth. I’ve had the privilege of sitting with three women who have given birth, plus I’ve done it twice myself, and I can tell you – it is hard work! There is one point during labor and delivery called “transition.” It’s the period when partners get slapped, swear words fly, and statements like: “Don’t ever touch me again,” become part of the birth story.
Once I was in a training with a wizened hospice counselor who was talking about the process of “crossing over” when we die. She called that passage a “threshold.” She said that thresholds are hard and dangerous. For example, an airplane is in the most danger when it is taking off or landing. She said perhaps the thresholds between life and death are also hard to navigate and that was why so many of our patients see long-dead relatives who come to escort them over the threshold.
There are many kinds of thresholds besides birthing into new life and dying to new life.
There is a threshold when you’ve lost a job, and before you get a new one. Or when one relationship ends,and before a new one begins. Or when you let go of an old idea of God, but haven’t yet formed a new one.
During these kinds of transitions, it’s good to have someone with you to guide you across the threshold.
Four kinds of threshold helpers:
If you have lost a job it can be a very scary time. But, it can also be freeing and a time to re-envision what you want to do next. This is a good time to consult a guidance counselor who can give you some assessments and help you think about options for your future. You may decide to go back to school or re-tool for a different career. Get someone to help you with your resume as well. The rules about resumes may have changed and the requirements for each job need to considered with each resume. There are also places online to get that kind of help.
If you have lost a relationship, a marriage and family counselor can be a great help. It’s important to grieve the loss before moving on. It’s also vital to own your part in the failure of the relationship, as well as determine what features of the relationship you would like to avoid with the next. The Psychology Today website is a good place to find counselors in your area.
If the transition you are going through is physical, you’ll need medical help. A doctor, a nutritionist, a personal trainer or physical therapist might be parts of a great team to help you through your transition. Asking for referrals from friends or on Facebook can be an excellent way to get a good recommendation.
If your transition is spiritual, there are people trained as spiritual directors who can help you navigate that area. They usually meet with you for one hour, once per month, and don’t charge too much either. Spiritual Directors International is a good place to find one in your area, but some will work long distance through Skype or on the phone.
Whatever kind of transition you’re in, don’t feel you have to go through it alone. I remember a 12-step friend changing the old saying about, “ When God closes a door, he opens a window,” to add, “but the hallway is hell!” I agree. It can be tough in the hallway, the waiting room, the threshold. But these transitions usually lead to new life, new possibilities and joy. All you need is someone to come along and guide you through.
Are you facing a threshold? What help are you finding as you go through? Any hints to share?