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Do We Move On or Move Forward From Grief?

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“Grief is so uncomfortable.” That’s one of the opening lines writer Nora McInerny shares in her candid TED Talk about life and death.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful snippets.

In this particular talk, McInerny encourages us to shift how we approach grief. Too often, people think it’s as easy as moving on, but this is one of the many myths about grief. Rather move on from our grief, we must instead find ways to move forward with it.

“What can we do other than try to remind one another that some things can't be fixed, and not all wounds are meant to heal? We need each other to remember, to help each other remember, that grief is this multitasking emotion. That you can and will be sad, and happy; you'll be grieving, and able to love in the same year or week, the same breath. We need to remember that a grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again… they're going to move forward. But that doesn't mean that they've moved on."

Below, we highlight top quotes from the TED Talk to help you shift your mindset about grief, so you can move forward with your life in the days, weeks and months that follow a loss.

1. “Grief is not a moment in time.”

Following the loss of a loved one, it’s important to remember the grieving process has no set timeline. We don’t just grieve the moment they pass and move on. Instead, we grieve the past and present. We grieve what could have been the future. This is because our loved one is more than just one moment in time.

Every person experiences grief in his or her own way. And while there’s no right or wrong way to grieve your loss, there are health ways to cope, including:

  • Accept that grief can trigger unexpected feelings, including anger and denial.
  • Understand that the grieving process will be unique to you and your situation.
  • Seek out support from trusted family members, friends and professional support groups.
  • Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.

You can’t rush your grief, so allow yourself as much time as you need to process your feelings surrounding the loss.

2. “Not all wounds are meant to heal.” 

Have you heard the phrase, “Time heals all wounds.” Some people believe this phrase is a catchall for grief—that in time, the anger, depression, guilt or regret will just go away.

This is simply not true. The point here is that not all wounds are meant to heal with time.

It hurts to lose someone we love. That loss shapes and defines who we are, and it never really goes away.  Instead, we carry it with us as we move forward into the next chapter of our lives, and what helps us heal is what we do with our time after they’ve passed.

Whether it’s finishing a project your loved one was working on or volunteering at their favorite charity, there are ways to fill up your time that can help you cope.

3. “You can be happy and sad.”

Attempting to face joy after the loss of a loved one is complicated. Whether the loss comes expectedly or unexpectedly, it has the power to disrupt our lives, leaving us numb.

While one day you feel happy, other days you may feel sad. With each new day, allow yourself to embrace the stages of grief as they come, rather than avoiding them altogether.

In doing so, we gradually learn how to live with loss in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we forget about our loved ones, we just learn how to go on living without their physical presence.

And while you can never replace the absence left by someone you loved and cared for, you can fill your life with purpose in his or her honor to help you feel happy again.

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Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? For more information on grief, plus healthy tips to help you heal, we encourage you to subscribe to our weekly grief newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing.  

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