In my profession I am sometimes asked how one manages to move on after the loss of a loved one.
Early in my training my go to answer was always something along the lines of “time.” However, having given that advice without actually experiencing any devastating personal tragedy, it seemed as though my advice to others somehow lacked validity and meaning because what I was proposing was mere suggestion, and not really based on any real life experience.
So when personal tragedy hit, in the form of my beloved teenage nephew choosing to end his life, I found myself asking the question… How do I move on from this? And over the days and weeks that followed when I was wrecked with sorrow, guilt, and unanswered questions, I came to realize that the process of healing is not about moving on… it’s about moving forward.
The difference being that moving on implies that you forget, drop everything and run toward the future without looking backward. While moving forward involves the exact opposite… remembering.
While burying the past and trying to wipe the mind of any tragic event is likely a natural reaction to a tragic or devastating situation. Moving forward involves remembering the good things about a person, and the way that person touched your life and the lives of others around them.
And in the act of remembering, we are able to learn how to take steps forward and adjust to life without them, all the while incorporating the small gifts they gave us when they were alive: memories, advice, photographs, new perspectives, etc.
Moving forward is about living the lives we have left with intention and purpose, and finding a way to honor not only ourselves, but the people we have lost along the way.