When you are facing a big life transition (death of a loved one, divorce, selling a business, retiring, having a child, getting married, etc.), one of the most overwhelming parts of the transition can be the Ending Stage. You will know you have reached this stage in your transition when you can acknowledge that what once was will no longer be. There is no going back to how things were prior to the change. This acknowledgement for some is very freeing especially if the transition is being viewed with a positive outlook. But often, life transitions are not anticipated and can leave you feeling jarred and unsettled. Maybe you were blindsided by the change.  Regardless of how the change came about, one thing that is almost certain is that you will be faced with some decisions about the future. The decisions can start to pile up really quickly and this can lead to overwhelm.  It is worth noting that this is quite normal and yet when you are in it, it does not feel normal and can feel isolating.

Ending is very important in a transition despite that overwhelm. It is the way forward. The beautiful growth that can come from a life transition can only be experienced by going through it. You cannot go around it. Ending is our first sign that we must move forward.


Here we sit knowing we need to move forward and at the same time feeling stuck by all the decisions and possibilities that need to be considered.


Give yourself permission to not make decisions. For example, let’s say you are recently widowed/widowered and in additional to make all the final arrangements for your loved one, very well meaning people are asking the following: Will you move? Will you sell the house? Will you keep working? What about the kids? How will they adjust? What will you do with the personal effects of your loved one? Will you sell a car? What will you do with the life insurance money? And on and on the list can go. Some will plow into the list of questions with a sword and battle through and others will curl into a ball and struggle to take care of themselves. Some will make decisions too quickly and have regret a year later when they are in a much different head space.

One solution is to write down all the decisions on a big piece of paper. Then sort the decisions into three categories, NOW, SOON, and LATER. NOW decisions have immediate deadlines or contribute to creating stability for the person going through the transition. There should not be too many NOW decisions so really prioritize. SOON decisions are important and need to be dealt with in a timely manner but do not need to be dealt with right away. LATER decisions can be delayed and assessed again down the road. Typically, unless there is a financial or health reason, moving or selling a home after losing a spouse is a LATER decision. The time frame for NOW, SOON, and LATER is unique to the person and their needs but this exercise helps to narrow the scope of decisions that need to be addressed right away and reassures the person that all will be dealt with in due time.

If you find yourself confused or overwhelmed by a major life event, consider giving yourself permission to delay some decisions and focus on stabilizing yourself. Recognize that you are in Ending and this is a time to let go of what was and move into what will be.

The First Stage of a Life Transition: