All of us will, at some time in our lives, experience loss. And it’s really hard to figure out how to process grief and the idea of “moving on” is unrealistic. But changing your perspective on coming to terms with loss from “moving on” to “moving forward” can help make the process so much easier.
I recently came across a TED Talk delivered by writer and podcaster, Nora McInerny, who shares the gut-wrenching, yet high-spirited story of how she processed her husband’s death and came to terms with the void that he left behind in her life.
McInerny explains how she was able to remarry and have children, while still carrying her late husband’s memory around with her wherever she goes. It’s a truly touching story and I’d highly recommend you watch the video above because I won’t do it justice.
There are a number of takeaways from McInerny’s speech about how to process grief that you can use to move forward from your loss, or when someone else has experienced loss – which is equally as important – and you have to be supportive in a way that isn’t dismissing their feelings and which helps them to recover from the tremendous pain that they’re feeling.
They stay with you
When you lose a loved one, no matter how many days, weeks, months, years or even decades go by, they’ll stay with you. And the stronger your bond was with your loved one, the more present they’ll be in your life. They are indelible. Widowers frequently say that the worst cliche that they hear far too frequently is that, “eventually, you’ll move on”.
But that person will always be a part of you and you shouldn’t try to erase them. Even if you remarry or someone fills that void, they’ll stay with you forever and you should choose to embrace it, rather than fear or shy away from it.
Grief doesn’t exist in a vacuum
Remember, when you’re figuring out how to process grief, or when you’re helping someone else do so, that grief doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are plenty of people who have experienced all kinds of grief. But that grief eventually turns into background noise when life happens. You don’t “move on” overnight. The timeline is not a straight line. Some days you feel good, other days you feel bad and you can be struck by grief when you’re least expecting it as well.
It helps to remember that you’re not special and this pain isn’t unique. There is a lot of suffering happening all over the world and, in many cases, in ways that you cannot even imagine. Like everyone else, like people who are suffering even more than you, you will get through this
Don’t close in around your loss
Remember that losing someone is an experience, just like moments of joy and happiness. And, just like all of the good moments in our lives, grief marks us just as much –and just as permanently.
Once you experience that debilitating grief, once you feel it, it’s there. Forever. It’s chronic and incurable. But, even though it feels at times like it could be fatal, it isn’t.
If we can’t prevent grief, what can we do?
“We can remind one another that things can’t be fixed and that not all wounds are meant to heal,” says McInerny.
And once you come to accept this, it is possible for a grieving person to laugh and to smile again. Even if it feels like you never will and even if that pain you feel right now never truly goes away. In fact, it won’t.
“You are going to be able to move forward again,” says McInerny. “But that doesn’t mean you’ve moved on.”
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