TRANSITIONS

There are many stages of life. The process of moving from one stage to the next—called a transition—can be both exciting and difficult. Joining or leaving the military, graduating from school, having a child, retiring, starting a new career, or getting a divorce are all examples of life transitions. Reflecting on which parts of past transitions were smooth and which seemed a bit more rocky can help you successfully navigate new paths in your future.

Continuing the Conversation

Continue thinking about topics raised in your local WoVeN group, or join a discussion with other women Veterans through our National Social Network.

Questions for Reflection

  • What transitions in your life have been the most memorable? Which have been the most surprising? What makes those experiences stand out to you?
  • What was it like to transition out of military service? How did you feel at the time (nervous, excited, sad)? What worked well for you during that transition? What might you have done differently?
  • What was it like to transition out of military service? How did you feel at the time (nervous, excited, sad)? What worked well for you during that transition? What might you have done differently?
  • Have you had any transitions that seemed to be a good idea at the time that didn’t work out as well as you would have liked? What did you learn from those experiences?
  • What fork do you think is next in your path? What can you do now to help make it a successful experience?

Toolbox

Dive deeper into this theme with these self help tools.

Understanding how you tend to react to change can help you be as successful as possible when you face future transitions. This self-assessment can help give you an objective look at how you approach transitions.

Transitioning into a new career after military service (or any time!) can be exciting and rewarding. However, the process can also be stressful and, at times, hard to navigate. This worksheet can help you think about what you want in a civilian career. The one-page cheat sheet will help you to prepare for a job interview.

Start planning for your next transition with this goal setting worksheet. Specify what you want and break down the steps to getting there.

What the Science Says

Learn about important research that relates to the lives of women Veterans.

This study examined whether online expressive writing could help Veterans with difficult reintegration. Expressive writing is a brief intervention in which people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about a life event (in this case, reintegration into civilian life) for about 20 minutes a day, 3-4 days in a row.

Study Findings:

    • 1,292 Iraq and Afghanistan war Veterans (about 40% of whom were women) that reported a little, some, a lot, or extreme difficulties with reintegration participated in the study.
    • Veterans assigned to expressive writing reported more improvements in physical complaints, anger, distress, PTSD symptoms, social support, and reintegration difficulties as compared to Veterans assigned to either write factually about Veterans’ needs or not write at all (control conditions).
    • About 2/3 of Veterans reported that expressive writing had long-term benefits.

We Conclude:
Expressive writing helps Veterans who are having difficulties reintegrating into civilian life. However, expressive writing should not take the place of mental health care for those with severe or ongoing problems with reintegration.

Citation:
Sayer, N. A., Noorbaloochi, S., Frazier, P. A., Pennebaker, J. W., Orazem, R. J., Schnurr, P. P., … & Litz, B. T. (2015). Randomized controlled trial of online expressive writing to address readjustment difficulties among US Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 28, 381-390.

Over 1 million OEF/OIF Veterans are using the GI bill to pursue higher education. This study asked 31 Veterans what helped them (or didn’t help them) meet their academic goals.

Study Findings:

    • Veterans reported several personal characteristics that helped them meet their academic goals: discipline and organizational skills developed in the military, being goal oriented, and perseverance.
    • Veterans described not being ready for school and difficulty fitting in with university life as barriers to meeting their goals.
    • Veterans appreciated Veteran-specific services such as early class registration privileges, Veteran clubs, and having a visible Veteran community on campus.

We Conclude:
Increasing the visibility of Veterans on campus, helping Veterans’ harness the strengths they developed in the military, increasing access to physical and mental health care on campus, and bolstering academic readiness programs for Veterans may help former service members meet their academic goals.

Citation:
Norman, S. B., Rosen, J., Himmerich, S., Myers, U. S., Davis, B., Browne, K. C., & Piland, N. (2015). Student Veteran perceptions of facilitators and barriers to achieving academic goals. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 52, 701-712.

Find More Info

Follow these links to find additional information about related topic areas.

One difficult transition that people often face is a period of unemployment. This fact sheet provides suggestions for how to address the emotions that often come along with unemployment.

http://www.abct.org/docs/factsheets/UNEMPLOYMENT.pdf

Aging brings its own set of challenges. This page provides tips for aging Veterans and a video of Veterans who have learned to embrace the changes that come with aging.

https://maketheconnection.net/events/retirement-aging

Separating from the military is an exciting but challenging transition for many Veterans. Militaryonesource.com has compiled many of the resources available to Veterans going through this transition. Their home page for separation is http://www.militaryonesource.mil/separation-transition.

We particularly like this page about finding the right job for you after separation.

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