Conversations in Grief Blog: The Myth of Moving Forward
The Myth of Moving Forward
By Hilary Furnish
Has a seemingly simple task ever felt impossible? We have everything we need to accomplish the task. But doing it fills us with so many emotions we cannot seem to begin. The philosopher Zeno once came up with a paradox that reflects that feeling. To paraphrase his idea, if I were standing on the side of the road and you were a foot in front of me, I could never reach you. In his theory, the math involved in crossing the space between us is so infinite that it would be impossible for me to reach you. We have what we need to move through that space, but what is required to do so makes it impossible. In many ways, this is what it is like after losing a loved one. Crossing the space between what life has been and what lies next feels like an impossible feat.
We often hear this idea when talking about life after losing someone. "You just need to move forward." Likewise, I am often asked by the bereaved, “what do I need to do to move forward?” As if the ability to put one foot in front of the other and keep going would somehow make everything better. The reality is we cannot move forward away from the point of loss. Instead, we move forward with the loss. The infinite number of ways your loved one has impacted your life are not things that can be left behind. They are a part of who you are and have helped make your life what it is today. Asking someone to simply move on from this is as impossible as Zeno’s philosophy. It won’t ever be possible.
How then do we carry on after a loss? We do not move forward from our grief, but with our grief. We traverse the infinite number of memories that will interrupt our days and fill us with love and longing. We lean on the support from our loved ones and share memories that feel like only yesterday. The love you carry for your person is the reason for the grief you may be feeling. The intensity of these feelings will change over time as they become a part of your life. The word for this process is integration. Rather than moving forward from our grief, the feelings of love and loss become part of who we are and how we stay connected to the memories of our loved ones.
What life will be like after losing a loved one is one of the hardest challenges we face in life. When we feel pressured to leave any part of the deep connection to our person behind, it makes the process even more difficult. We find ourselves starting from point A and are immobilized by the effort needed to make the journey to point B. Let us choose a new path where we seek to embrace the reality that we do not move forward from grief but bring it with us. In doing so, we allow ourselves the space we need to honor our loved one's memory and redefine our lives in a way that integrates all the ways they impacted us into whatever comes next.