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Don’t feel guilty about when to move forward – this is a personal journey that is up to you
There are no rule books when it comes to grief or how to move forward after loss but there are definitely judgments. When we’re learning how to move forward after loss there are lots of opinions on when to move forward and how to.
After losing my brother, I made the personal decision to get back to my social life after 3 weeks. While that may seem really quick to some, for me it was how I was coping and how I was trying to force myself to readjust to this new world without him. While I still struggled despite getting out there, for me it was a case of forcing myself to move forward quickly or running the risk of never doing it.
Whether you’re moving forward after the death of a spouse or moving forward after the death of a parent, the experience and the journey is a personal one that only we can understand. There is no wrong or right way to go about moving forward when it comes to grief. It’s an experience that we all go through differently.
When you’re trying to cope with the grief and figure out how life goes on after loss, try not to get caught up in the opinions and feelings of others about when it’s time to move forward. This is a very personal decision that needs to be made based on your own feelings.
It’s easy for us to get caught up in the judgments of others’ ideas on how to move forward after loss and worry that it may be too soon or not soon enough. This is definitely something I felt when I was trying to move forward. However, it’s important to remember that each person is different and how or when we move forward is up to us only.
Related content: How I Dealt With The Loss Of My Brother (& Survived)
Seek help in the areas you cannot figure out
For me, the mental process of grief, the awareness, and the mindsets were something I felt comfortable dealing with myself. I did a lot of reading and introspection that helped me create beliefs and mindsets that carried me through my darkest hours. However, when it came to my physical experience, that was different.
I struggled to calm my body down and sleep properly. Insomnia and physical feelings of anxiety were constantly there no matter what I did. This was when I realized that this part of my grief was something I needed help with. I knew without seeking help, I wasn’t going to be able to move forward.
When you’re moving forward after the death of a loved one there are so many aspects to grief. Some we can handle by ourselves whilst others we need help with. Don’t be afraid to seek help in the areas that you can’t manage on your own.
There are so many resources and services out there to help in any area of your life where you feel the grief has overtaken you beyond your control. For me, seeking a psychologist was not something I felt I needed. Instead, I decided to see a naturopath and an acupuncturist to get the physical help I needed. These decisions were life-changing for me and I truly believe I wouldn’t have been able to move forward without them.
So when you’re considering seeking help, stay open-minded about the help that is available and try different things. Whilst most people immediately think of a psychologist (this can be super helpful!), if you feel like that isn’t for you that’s ok. Assess the other services and resources that might be there to help you with the challenges you’re facing. We don’t have to do this alone.
Remind yourself of the people around you that still need you
One of the biggest challenges when figuring out how to move forward after loss is a simple fact that we don’t want too. Often with the death of a spouse, parent or any loved one, we feel we’ve lost our sense of purpose and question what the point of it all is.
For me, I really struggled to understand how I could move forward after losing my brother. I felt that no matter what I was doing I was just trying to pass the days until I saw him again.
The way I was able to see out of this was to remember that there were people around me that still needed my love and care as much as I needed theirs. In particular, I have 3 young cousins that I know looked to both me and my brother as examples. My brother was the type of person who took this job seriously! He often tried to be the best person he could be, constantly supporting them and offering advice.
In my darkest days, I reminded myself that my brother would want me to continue this on for him. To move forward through my loss and honor him, to show our family members how to do that too.
When you feel like you can’t move forward and the death of your loved one makes you feel like you can’t move forward or carry on, think of the loved ones around you that still need you. Think of the people who are yet to hear your story but might need to. Often, when we go through the death of a loved one or any traumatic experience, we have the choice to share our stories and tell others. Someone out there needs you to be an example and inspire them.
Think of what you would want your loved one to do if it was you
On many occasions, I have been lifted from my darkest despair by trying to put myself in my brother’s shoes. If it was me that had passed on, how would I want my brother to live?
When we think of leaving our loved ones, we would tell them to move forward, to live in their honor, to enjoy life and truly experience what they didn’t get to.
Every time you struggle to move forward after the death of a loved one remember that. Think about what you would say to them and how you would want them to live and practice it.
Say “yes” to how you’re going to experience things differently
Bittersweet is the word that comes to mind every time I think of moving forward after the death of my brother. I have learned that all my big milestones will forever be bittersweet.
While I will be excited and joyful for the milestones and moments in my life, I will constantly wish that my brother was there. A great technique I learned from Susan Jeffers in her book Feel The Fear & Do It Anyways, is to practice saying yes to this experience. Instead of trying to resist the duality of feelings and trying to feel only happy, I have learned to accept that I feel this way. That I can feel both happy and sad during these times and that it’s ok.
We will always miss our loved ones and wished that they were there to experience all we do. Feeling both happy and sad during big or small moments is normal and common when someone we love isn’t next to us.
I no longer try to resist this but instead understand that when we lose a loved one life changes and the way we experience things changes. As my brother would say, I “roll with the punches” instead of trying to change something I can’t.
Moving forward doesn’t mean you loved them any less or will forget about them
The toughest part of learning how to move forward after loss is feeling like if we move forward or change, we will forget about them or feel like we mustn’t’ love them.
This could not be further from the truth. Whilst we would love to have saved our loved one or taken on their pain for them, we couldn’t. Moving forward, whilst bittersweet, doesn’t mean that we loved them loss or will forget about them. It means that we have made the courageous decision to move forward with the grief and continue to love them.
Be vocal and express your feelings
Moving forward after the death of a spouse, parent or loved one often doesn’t include just us. Whether we find a new partner, have kids or family, when we move forward we often move forward with them.
I have often communicated to my new partner the difficulties I’ve felt in moving forward with him. Being a sibling for me meant that I was always sharing. What I wanted for myself, I wished for my brother too. So moving forward with my current partner, buying a house and completing other major milestones has been difficult. I often think about my brother and how I wished he was there and also how I wished I’d got to see him fulfill the things he wanted.
Again, whilst we can’t change this, communicating our feelings to our loved ones is important. When I explained why big milestones can be happy but also sad for me, my partner was extremely understanding and also didn’t take it personally. Instead, he was able to offer me the support that I needed and I was able to give him the reassurance the needed that these changes were what I wanted but were still hard to process.
Communicate and let your loved ones know how it feels to move forward after the death of a loved one.
Practice gratitude without guilt – what happened was not your responsibility or fault but it is your responsibility to choose now
The death of a loved one is not something we can control and in most circumstances is not something we can take responsibility for. The only responsibility we have now is to make the choice to honor them and appreciate the life we still have while we’re here. A reminder too that gratitude also needs to come without a side of guilt.
It’s easy to feel guilty when moving forward because we feel our loved one should be able to as well. However, again, this isn’t something we can control or change. The only thing we can control and change is our response to it.
I have chosen to live with gratitude for the life I have and the moments I had with my brother and to practice living in his honor. Will you make the choice to do the same for your loved one?