Articles

Write Your Way Through Challenging Life Transitions, with Leia Francisco

Rebecca Kochenderfer

08/12/2019

Leia Francisco

Faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute

In life, change is inevitable. While some changes are chosen, others are thrust upon us without warning. Our special guest today, Leia Francisco, teaches us how to navigate new directions with grace, wisdom, and even joy. I find her visionary work personally helpful, and I’m honored to have her here at Journaling.com.

Leia Francisco is a coach, teacher, and writer of transitions. Her book Writing through Transitions: A Guide for Transforming Life Changes is now in its second printing. Leia holds a Master’s degree and is a Board Certified Coach. Leia has been a faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute, where she’s taught transition writing for over a decade. Her certification program is a highly individualized, self-paced training that prepares others to develop their own signature transition coaching or workshop. Leia lives in the beautiful hill country of Texas.

Leia’s work will transform the way you engage with changes in your life. To learn more, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Transition Defined

Leia makes an important distinction between the terms change and transition. Change, she explains is an external event such as getting or losing a job, buying a new home, or becoming a grandparent. In contrast, transition is interior and represents the emotional and psychological landscape we travel in order to get to a new place in life. Transition is a response to change.

Our responses to change are unique, and each is inspired by singular circumstances. How we engage with our interior response, Leia suggests, determines how much meaning we glean from the  transitions in our lives.

People can feel like they are stuck when really they are being stilled.

Leia Francisco

How Writing Helps Navigate Transition

In the midst of whirling swirling change, writing grounds us and helps us to feel a sense of control.

Writing supports us in times of transition by:

  • identifying skills and strengths.
  • shining a light on our emotions.
  •  providing clarity.
  • accessing new parts of the brain which helps us gain additional insight and creativity.
  • providing distance on the paper between us and our emotions.
  • revealing progress through a written document that can be repeatedly revisited.
  • centering and structuring our ideas.

The Transition Process in Three Steps

When contemplating personal transitions, Leia encourages us to think in metaphor.  She compares significant transitions to what it feels like to move from one home to another. 

Step 1: Letting Go

Sticking with the house metaphor, this is the stage when we look over our possessions and decide what needs to be sold or donated.  It’s important to grieve at this stage.  It can be painful to part from items, people, emotions and ideas we’ve carried with us.

Now is also the time to identify which treasures we’ll bring with us. Not everything has to go! Leia observes that when we experience a cataclysmic change like divorce or the loss of a job, there is a tendency to think we’ve lost everything. The truth is, we leave behind some things but not all.

Writing Prompts to Navigate Step 1

  • Journal about the most significant losses signified by this transition. What do these mean to you?
  •  Write about the treasures you’ll keep and bring forward to your new destination.
  • Make a list of supports available to you as you embark on this transition. Write down whoever and whatever can nourish you in this time—friends, family, pets, nature.

Step Two: Limbo

This is a time of questions and uncertainty. But it’s also a period of tremendous opportunity. You’ve shut the door of your old home for the last time and said all of your goodbyes. It’s not quite time to move into your new place. Maybe you’ll have to spend a few weeks in a hotel. Now is the time to visualize your way forward.

Fear can rise at this stage. This tendency is normal and okay. Fear, Leia reminds us, is a way we protect ourselves. Embrace fear as a legitimate companion on this part of your journey. Receive this emotion without being overwhelmed. At the same time, challenge fear, rise and show it your strength and power.

Leia acknowledges that this time of uncertainty can be particularly difficult because on the surface we feel stuck. This may be a good time to read old journals and acknowledge that you’ve come further than you might have realized.

Writing Prompts to Navigate Step 2

  • You’ll need all the psychic energy you can muster to engage fully with this stage. Lighten your load where you can. Write about obligations that can be dropped or limited.
  • Identify and write about self-care techniques you will implement. Writing down these ideas makes it more likely they’ll be actualized.
  • What wild and crazy thoughts have you had this week? Write about them. Open that creative valve and think about your circumstances in bold new ways.
  • Answer the question, “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?”
  • Use metaphors to write about this upside-down season. Perhaps this period of transition makes you think of building a house, starting a garden, or fixing a car. Metaphors can help us understand thoughts and feelings that are otherwise difficult to name.

Most people want to skip this middle stage. I get it! It’s extraordinarily uncomfortable to be in between and without a map to show where you are headed. But Leia points out that completing this stage is vital in ensuring our transition is a meaningful one.

Step 3: The Change

You’ve arrived! You are in your new house. But you are still unpacking boxes. There’s not enough furniture to get comfortable just yet, but you are close.

In general, Leia cautions, people are wired to want to get on with the change. They may try to pass through this stage too quickly. It’s important to pause, to consider where you’ve come from and where you are headed next.  You might journal about the following:

  • Write about the change you’ve faced.
  • What has this change meant to you?
  • What resources did you rely on to navigate this transition?

When we have processed the change fully and deeply, we have transitioned.

Your Action Plan

Throughout each of these steps, Leia makes a plea for patience. Answers will not come overnight she reminds us. Transition is a slow, deep process. In the midst of this season, people can feel like they are stuck when really they are being stilled.

Give yourself permission to complete each step with mindfulness and intention. Writing is an invaluable tool that will make this work easier.

Rebecca Kochenderfer

Founder of Journaling.com

About Rebecca Kochenderfer

Rebecca Kochenderfer is Journaling.com’s founder and host. She is the author of Joy Journal, an uplifting collection of journaling tips and techniques. Rebecca is honored to hold this space for the journaling community to connect, thrive, and grow. Fellow journalers can connect with Rebecca at  [email protected] or on Facebook and send her questions and stories about their own journaling experience. For press and advertising inquiries contact here.