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?

Image credit: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock



  1. Well done, well said. Good advice and encouragement. Thank you.
    Jacci, my threshold is very long, living with this endless chronic disease with no cure, because it doesn’t feel like living, but just waiting, waiting. Waiting in the hallway, for the window to open. For people like me and Arva, (and there are plenty) most of the books, talks, etc. don’t apply. It isn’t temporary. It’s not a trial you “get through”. It’s not cancer, with a treatment, or a much shorter threshold. It’s probably most like a life sentence, and you have to figure out how to live with everything you knew before, gone. Add to that, the physical and mental suffering, and the threshold is a very long hallway, the end only in sight during those special times with God, when He speaks directly to you to encourage you. I’d love to find someone like you who could write for people like us. Online communities help to not feel alone, but it doesn’t replace being with family, friends, having ministry or work to fill the need for purpose, or the past joys in life denied to you now. If I had the mental clarity and energy and could hang on long enough to God’s hope to write a book myself on this, boy, would I! I want to encourage others suffering this. I want them to know Jesus can make such a difference. But reality is, it is extremely tough, painful, and some people give up. Maybe you can find, or write, something to help those not give up. And help families and friends to understand how to love their chronically ill/disabled loved one.
    Please feel free to delete this comment, as I feel it’s more appropriate as an email perhaps, but no strength left to copy paste, etc. have to close my eyes, lie down, shut down. Bless you.


    • Can’t remove my comment above, can you? Thanks. Just reread my own last blog post, on wordpress, which reminded me where God seemed to be taking me last I was writing. It helped. I think an almost constant grief best describes our dilemma, and this is a common element for others with this disease. It’s a great loss, and there isn’t really anything to replace it, so, perhaps like one grieving the loss of a loved one, the hallway stretches unendingly long.


    • I’d like to keep it. It is raw and real and I wish I could write to what you are going through but I do have a dear friend, a spiritual director, who is a writer and has CFS and I’m hoping soon she will have the strength to write because those little insights you mention, those times when God breaks through, are so profound! I’d love that if she could share them, and you too. But I understand there are limits and I love your heart! That long hallway must be excruciating!

      Liked by 1 person

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