Sunday, June 13, 2010
William Bridges, who works with both organizational and individual transitions, speaks of the three-phase journey of transition and likens it to the journey from Egypt of the ancient Israelites. As widows, traveling from couplehood to independent self-hood, we, too, traverse these three stages.
For us, the first stage is abrupt, sometimes unexpected, always painful. It happens when our spouse draws a last breath. Even if we think we were prepared, we aren't. And, like the Israelites, we don't leap from an ending to a new beginning in an instant. Instead, we enter what Bridges call "the neutral zone," a time of transition. The Israelites weren't ready to enter the Promised Land until enough time had passed for them to truly leave Egypt behind. They needed a whole new generation to take the place of the former slaves before they were ready as a nation to control their own destiny.
Bridges says during that time of chaos and confusion, we need some early successes to keep us going. I planned a memorial service, got through my first day back at work, cooked a meal just for myself after having eaten at the hospital for seven months. Small successes but oh, how I needed them to bolster my confidence.
But we shouldn't foorce outselves to speed through our desert of transition, Bridges says. We need to give it time, and that time varies. What worked for me might not for you. We pass through rocky terrain, thirst for our lost loved one, shiver in the cold desert nights. Bridges cautions us to take our time until we're ready for a new beginning. And even when we do take on a new identity, just as the Israelites keep the Exodus in their collective memory, we, too, will keep that old life, that old way of being in our hearts.