If you’re dealing with a death of a loved one, the idea of “moving on” can feel insulting. It’s a phrase often associated with a break-up and implies emotional distance. But after a major loss you will likely hear people talking about how you should move on.
What does that mean, and is it even possible?
When someone says you need to move on, what they’re really saying that is that your grief shouldn’t be the only thing you focus on. They’re saying it’s time to let joy back into your life and find good, happy moments that your loved one can’t share.
It’s not about forgetting your love for that person,or trying to erase the memories.
Perhaps it would feel better to say “moving forward” or just “rebuilding your life.”
It’s Always Ok to Move On
Especially if the loss is new, you can feel like the only way to honor your loved one is to keep things exactly the same as they were before they died. You might be tempted to think constantly about what your loved one would do in a certain situation or avoid doing things you want to do but know your dead loved one would disapprove of.
As you move through grief, you’ll stop thinking about your deceased loved one constantly. That’s part of moving on, and it’s ok.
Living life the way you want to, in a way that feels authentic to you, doesn’t mean disrespecting your dead loved one. Maybe your deceased spouse hated cats—you don’t love them less if you get a cat now. Maybe your deceased parent was happy to have you live in your hometown—you don’t love them less by moving away.
Moving On Isn’t Binary
As a culture we like to think of things in black and white—this person is still grieving or this person has ‘moved on.’ Reality is much more complicated. There will be times when you feel like you’re nailing it in life, when it seems like you’ve managed to overcome your grief and move your life forward. Other times, however, you might feel like you’re wallowing in grief all over again, even years after the loss.
You’ll probably never get to a point where you feel like you’ve completely moved on. We don’t forget our loved ones, and the pain of losing them stays with you, even years later. It just changes and you learn how to live with it.
If moving on means that you’re not sad about the loss or you never feel grief again—you’ll probably never get there. It’s not the same as moving on from a break-up, because you’ll never get to a point where you look back at your loved one’s death without feeling sadness. But if moving on means living your life to the fullest, in a way that’s true to your own dreams and desires instead of constantly focusing on what your deceased loved one would want, it’s possible to move on. And it’s ok, too.