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Life Transitions: helping refugees come to terms with the past, accept the present and step into the future

Many refugees have been in survival mode for so long they have forgotten how to grieve. Some feel traumatised by their memories of the past, and others are worn down through the convoluted procedures on which their hopes for a new start rest. The challenges of gaining legal status, finding housing, securing employment and learning language are important to work through in the process of integration, but perhaps the most essential factor to the long term success in building a new life is emotional wellbeing.

LTRIt can be very challenging for refugees to find the space they need to begin to process their experiences in a healthy way. Many would never consider seeking professional help. Others are ineligible for statutory care, the waiting lists are simply too long, or the nuances of language make talking about deep heart issues difficult through a translator.

This is where Life Transitions Refugee aims to help. Our Reflective Journey gives refugees the opportunity and the tools to start to commemorate the past, to accept the present, and to look forward to the future with hope.

“I was reminded of painful memories in my life. I realised that I had been focused too much on the past, I needed to let go of the past and look more to the future. I felt that this project has helped me find more peace. I want to share it with my Kurdish friends here. They have been through their own exodus, & this would be very helpful for them.”

(Bnar – Kurdish Refugee)

The journey takes participants through four interactive stations helping them mark their arrival, and preparing them for the challenges of building a new life. In many ways the reflective journey acts as a resettlement ceremony or ritual offering the space for guided mindfulness and contemplation. Through the process participants gain an understanding of the impact of trauma, normalizing some of the symptoms they may be experiencing. They are given a safe space to start to grieve, and their emotional resilience is built up.

“Life Transitions Reflective Journey is a powerful tool that offers space for individuals to honour their past through grief and celebration. It also encourages them to identify strengths that will help them on their journey ahead. As organisations host this simulation, they are able to come alongside individuals in their journey and offer support.”

(Sandy Hennip – LMSW, Former Director of Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program, USA))

past to futureLife Transitions Reflective Journey is currently available in six languages. We train community groups, churches, charities and local authorities to host the programme and provide follow on support. The following testimony from a social worker in Germany demonstrates the impact:

“Our residential house cares for a group of unaccompanied refugee minors from Afghanistan. They had been in Germany for about 6 months when the LT team visited. It was during a very difficult phase with the boys. There had been a lot of fights & arguments & the atmosphere was aggressive. The LT team managed to create a feeling of acceptance & safety. The boys gained confidence as they went through the four stations. The LT Reflective Journey enabled our residents to gain new courage & strength to face the future. They were filled with hope again. There was an ongoing atmosphere of peace, & the fighting & the quarrels stopped for many months”

Phil Kempkens – Social Worker, Germany

So far the programme has been run by groups supporting refugees in Germany, Belgium and Greece. If you are interested in finding out more about Life Transitions refugee visit our website at or email [email protected]