03/01/2012 12:16 pm ET Updated May 01, 2012

Legacy Writing: Transitions

We are always in some kind of transition of our ideas, in our personal lives, in our relationships, in the seasons of the year and in our country's public life and the world. This isn't new news; Heraclitus said in the 400s BCE, "The only constant is change."

All change has three components -- first, the end or death of something; second, the in-between, the time of transition; and third, the rebirth or beginning of something new.

But we are always growing, changing, the most obvious in major life stages from childhood to old age, and all the stages in between. Perhaps less obvious and more important are our changes of ideas, perceptions and even values because we are creatures of learning, perhaps not formal, but situational or circumstantial.

My daughter and her family are in a major transition, and I recently wrote her a legacy letter sharing my perceptions about the letting go, the stress of the in-between and a blessing for the opportunities of the new. Their transition is both inner and outer, emotional, spiritual and physical. It's about how each of them and the family as a relational unit will experience a move from Minneapolis to Miami.

Picking up my pen with the hope of writing something useful to her prompted memories of my own transitions, often unsupported, except by William Bridges' 1979 book, titled Transitions. What I recall that was helpful to me then was his description of the difficulty and lack of cultural support for the in-between, that fertile and creative time when we've pushed off from the old, but have not yet seen or come to terms with/or acclimated ourselves to the new.

The in-between, so rich in potential is also the most difficult, often terrifying component of change, because we yearn for clarity, for direction, for a sense of "being in control," to know. But if we rush to the new before its time, we shortchange ourselves. To sit in the in-between is to believe what Rachel Naomi Remen speaks of so eloquently: honoring mystery over mastery. We can't "push the river," but often we use our psychological energy to try.

"The transition from cause to effect, from event to event,
is often carried on by secret steps,
which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to trace." -- Joseph Addison

The past is over and the future not yet, but few of us consistently live in the present, especially when we're stressed. We're more likely to fret and worry or rush to make decisions, to escape feeling lost and directionless. Living in the in-between feels not like the freedom that it is, but like a prison from which we only want escape.

Whether the transition is benign and expected like the change of seasons of the year; or perhaps not always benign but expected, as we make the transition from one life stage to another; or changing from one job to another, where not only the tasks are different, but the cultures are unique; or whether we're ending a relationship by choice or external circumstance (like a death) and must learn to live life without that person; or negotiating an ongoing relationship in which you and the person you're in relationship with are forever in a process of change, not always compatible in pace, intensity or direction; or whether the transition is from being parented to parenting -- and like many of us finding ourselves in the transition of parenting our own parents -- or letting go of independent adulthood as we need the "parenting" of our kids; or the transition of military men and women and their families from peace to war or war back to peace; or like the Arab Spring of our time when we see old dictatorial structures crumbling and new forms of government yet unborn; or the transition of our industrial age to the age of technology and communication.

"Innumerable confusions and a feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transition." -- Marshall McLuhan

Whether we're aware of the transitions or not, personal and global transitions affect all of us. We experience the same pattern over and over: Something old is ending but before the new can be born, there is an in-between to negotiate.

"We come to beginnings only at the end." -- William Bridges

Here is part of the blessing I wrote as I remembered my transitions and offered my support to my daughter:

My sweet and most wonderful daughter, may you have the courage to let go, to weather the challenges of this transition, and the optimism to see, fully experience, and enjoy the opportunities of the new as they appear. May your love for family be not a burden, but an offering to them of a supportive foundation for their own unique learning in this transitional time. May you remember my phone number and trust that I am always "at the other end of the line" to support you and "listen to you cry."

Suggestions for Practice:

1. Reflect about major life transitions you've experienced and jot notes about what they were, your experience of the in-between, past learnings that you gathered to assist you with the new and the opportunities you opened to once on the other side.

2. Consider a loved person in transition -- you may most easily identify the ending, e.g. end of a relationship, school, a job, a life stage.

3. Write that person a legacy letter sharing both your experience and the wisdom you've learned about transition. It may be useful to share your perceptions of the person's strengths that will support their transition, and conclude offering a blessing of love and compassion.

4. Steps 2 and 3 can be repeated for others who may benefit from your support.

5. Process notes: an opportunity to reflect on strengths you didn't consciously bring from your past transitions that you can integrate now -- your own strengths and qualities that continue to serve you in the present.

"May your transitions be fruitful,
your support compassionate," -- Rachael Freed

For more by Rachael Freed, click here.

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Rachael Freed has published several works including "Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations" and "Heartmates: A Guide for the Spouse and Family of the Heart Patient." She is currently working on "Harvesting the Wisdom of Our Lives: An Intergenerational Legacy Guide." Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and legacy consultant. Her home is Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information, visit and Follow her on Twitter: