Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Maybe it’s time to move on…”
These words are actually offered as presumed words of comfort to a grieving parent.
Move on…to me this suggests “moving away from” as in packing your bags and boxes and leaving. Or it suggests making a switch from one thing to another, as in “I don’t like that sushi restaurant, let’s try the new one down the street.”
I don’t understand how one can “move on” from the relationship of a child. A relationship is not static, it is not an object to be packaged up. It cannot be replaced. A relationship is as unique as the proverbial snowflake, as unique as you and I, as unique as the experience of grief each person feels when a loved one dies.
And then I introduce alternate language… “moving forward.” It feels less pushy. “Moving forward” embraces the idea that you are alive and that life involves moving. These are not small ideas in the world of a grieving parent, many would rather stay inside or avoid change. In their minds, accepting change means accepting their child is really gone.
So moving, in any way, is huge. Moving forward can be inviting, because any place without pain would be a good place. But its also scary because moving forward suggests moving away from what was, and what was included your child in the picture. Moving forward requires accepting, once again, that the your child is indeed absent from your life..
It occurs to me, though, that these two “movements” in response to loss are not an adequate description. It’s not about moving on or even moving forward. It’s about “moving in.” Grieving catapults us – our emotions, our intellect, our psyche, our spirituality…boom! We are thrust right into the depths of ourselves without any warning or any guidance.
For some, this experience is as frightening as it is sad. Some parents look for help, for any kind of reference point to make sense of the senseless. And some have instincts that lets them trust the painful and circuitous process of grieving. All of us, though, must respond to the two major demands of loss: 1) living life without our child and 2) living life with yourself.
Grief, ultimately, becomes a process of moving inward, into an unknown territory of oneself. Without our child, we must face fears, loneliness, or inadequacy. The pain of the loss, coupled with this vast emptiness of uncertainty often creates resistance to traveling within. Its hurts way too much.
Many grieving parents resist the journey within. The hard work and painful acceptance that it demands is just too great. This is unfortunate, because the energy to resist the depths of ourselves is not very discriminatory. When we push down our deep fears, we also will be pushing down seeds of new insights, of confidence, of gifts we never knew existed. But of course this kind of reasoning is not very attractive when one is hurting. What everyone wants is for the pain to stop.
Grief, dear friends, is indeed a process. Our job is to find the tools and people that can comfort us along the way, along the difficult journey of grieving. Our job, as grieving parents, is to allow the process to move within us and to trust the outcome. Our job is to believe, to know, that the love we experienced with our child will care for us still in this new time of our lives.