What moving forward doesn't mean

May 15, 2020

Depending on where you are in your widowed journey, you may be noticing some “firsts:” the first time you laugh out loud, or the first time in a long time that you actually feel good, the first time you smiled or the first really good day after a long string of dark days. Or maybe the first time someone catches your eye or the first time you allow your mind to think about dating again.

Those are among the many small steps in moving forward. Some are intentional and some catch us by surprise. This is the courageous act of putting one foot in front of the other. It is engaging in the one step forward, two steps back, uncertain shuffle of grief.

The big question is this: what do you make it mean?

These were some of the very things that made me feel ashamed. I was making them mean that I wasn’t honoring my husband and our marriage. That the length of my grief was somehow a measure of the depth of my love. That I was moving “on,” leaving him in the past.

I was wrong about all of it.

I realized that the thoughts that made me miserable were worth reconsidering. Were they actually true? Were they useful to me? I mostly answered no to both of those questions. So, I came up with new thoughts that felt authentic and true for me. Even when my brain wanted to loop on the old beliefs, I asked my brain to think the new beliefs  on purpose. Here are a few of them that are true and useful for me, and I live by today:

  1. Moving forward is not the same as moving “on.” Moving forward is simply turning to the next page in a book. It is not deleting all the previous chapters, but instead, building on them, honoring them, continuing to grow because of them.
  2. It’s okay if I smile today. I deserve that.
  3. It’s okay if I have a good day. I’m worthy of that.
  4. It’s okay if I laugh out loud. My soul is, after all, tired of crying. This life is a mix of both.
  5. It’s okay if I allow my heart to expand its ability to love.
  6. My grief is no indication of my love for my husband.
  7. I have finite energy, so I choose not to spend any on judging myself or my journey. I’ll simply observe it with compassion and curiosity.

Our profound loss is hard enough without adding more suffering in the form of self-judgement. By eavesdropping on our thoughts and finding the ones that cause pain, we can decide for ourselves what is true and useful, and put our brains on the task of choosing those thoughts instead.

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