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Moving Forward, Not Moving On:

This might be a little more complicated than the title suggests. While moving on is kind of a simple idea, moving forward is a lot more complex.

It’s time for you to move on! It’s one of those things that people often say! The non-bereaved often feel that the way to end our grief or make it less is for us to move on.

waves of grief

Many times, friends and family feel that if only you could find someone else or at least start dating again, everything would get better and you would become happy again and maybe also return to being the person they knew before. 

Moving on may make others feel more comfortable being around us. It may also be a part of their hope that moving on will make us feel better and fairly quickly let us become ok. Sometimes we too may think and feel those same types of thoughts. Sometimes those thoughts or actions are the last thing in the world we want to entertain…

But, since moving on is not usually how it works and not usually what we really want, instead of moving on, can we find ways to move forward?

Changing on your own terms and in your own time is important. When it’s time and right for you, it’s time and right for you! 

Finding healing and wellness and moving forward can be, and often is a long, hard process. It takes a lot of work on a lot of things to learn how to move forward. We generally don’t go from grief to wellness overnight. It’s not really about finding another person to be with to fill the emptiness as other’s suspect. In a sense, that just gets in the way of what we need to do for ourselves, especially early in the journey.

Can we find ways to let ourselves grow (moving forward) while not leaving anything behind, of not wanting or trying to replace anything from the past (moving on)? Can we find ways to move forward without thinking we need to replace our loved ones in our lives with another person? Moving forward is about asking ourselves lots of questions and finding honest answers that fit our own personal grief and healing journeys.

To move forward, do we need to establish new relationships as others often suggest? Can we and should we learn to become whole again in a new and different way on our own first, while not denying or removing anything we treasure from our lives with our loved ones.

If we are willing to do the work, we can make our grief journeys much more possible and do-able and we can work our way through our grief to a place of wellness. We can move forward in our lives but not necessarily move on! And if we get to a place and find a person to move forward with, we can then be and give so much more for having taken the time to learn to move forward on our own first. 

Here’s a potential paradox to think about:

While we really want to reach an end to our grief, while we may really want to move forward, we may also find ourselves feeling guilty anytime there is a lessening in the thoughts, feelings and emotions of grief we feel…

So, how can we think about moving forward while not feeling guilty? 

Guilt is not surprising in our grieving minds and emotions. We often spend a lot of time thinking about the past and things we did or didn’t do during our lives with our loved ones. 

There may be many things from our past that can haunt our thoughts and emotions as we re-live them in our minds. They can be powerful sources of guilt and regret and because we can’t change what happened, they can also become loops in our thoughts that go around and around and can trap us and hold us from finding resolution, from healing and from moving forward. 

Here are some other things we may feel guilty about as we try to move forward:

  • Not thinking about our spouse or our bereavement (all the time). 
  • Not hurting (all the time).
  • Not grieving (all the time).
  • Not crying (all the time) or not crying at all.
  • Smiling or laughing.
  • Being happy (even for only a few moments).
  • Wanting or bringing other (new) things or people into our lives. 
  • Changing things in our shared material space.
  • Making changes in our emotional space.
  • Wanting to make friends, go out to dinner with friends (men/women). 
  • Finding people and places to go out and have a good time with.
  • Others?

Guilt isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something we may experience and may need to deal with and find healthy ways to resolve without letting it create patterns of thinking that don’t let us move forward. 

Making changes and not just talking about them:

It’s usually pretty easy to think of things you want to do or be. Throughout our lives, we may have “great ideas”, we may make promises to ourselves or to our loved ones, we may make “resolutions” and make plans to do things, to change things or to learn things. In the day to day stuff of living however, many of those things never get done, something comes up or we didn’t have the will or the time or the resources to follow through or carry them out. In general, that’s pretty common behavior for most people.

During our grief journeys, however, it may be more important then ever to follow through, to live up to the mental promises we make and the intent we have then it was before. We now have the time to make those things happen and we now have important healing reasons to make a commitment to making those things come into being. It may be another part of inertia that we need to learn to overcome.

A very important part of making changes in our lives, of becoming better and more, of doing things to honor our loved ones, of doing things we know they would affirm and of doing things for our own purposes, of learning ways to move forward, is following through. Actualization of our intent I believe, is a very important part of the healing processes.

I think its important to not let ourselves be mentally lazy, to not let inertia keep us from learning and changing. If we say we want to do something or change something, (and maybe more so in the mental and emotional sense than in the material sense) it is important that we choose realistic goals, that we go forward and make them happen if we can, that we work on them and practice them and keep at it until we master them or actualize them. 

If we make a promise to ourselves (or our loved ones) to change something, to learn something or to become better in some way, especially in ways we may be sorry we didn’t change earlier in our lives, or if we want forgiveness for something we might regret, we need to deserve that forgiveness and fulfill those promises. Its important to not just think the thought, but also do the act. We need to become the change we promise and so honor and affirm our love and our willingness to actually become better or different and not just make noise about it.

Sometimes it takes years to make these changes. But it is our intent to change, our will to do the work and our willingness to spend the time it takes to bring these changes into being in our lives that makes them important. We usually only move forward if we want to and when we are wiling to do the work it takes to make it happen. It’s often only in looking back at what we’ve done that we can see the magnitude of our success!

Hope and Healing:

Finding hope and healing and moving to wellness is never going to be easy. It takes time and effort to learn and grow and make something new out of our often shattered lives, to have a phoenix moment! If we are kind to ourselves (self compassion) and we help each other and encourage and support each other, we can make the journey at least a little easier by telling our stories, sharing our grief and knowing that we are not alone, others are and have been there too. We can indeed move forward without having to move on!


  • What does moving on mean to you?
  • What does moving forward mean to you? 
  • Can you think of ways to do the hard work of moving forward from grief to healing and wellness?
  • Do you experience guilt as you consider ways of moving forward?
  • What role does acceptance play in moving forward?
  • What are some things that you might be thinking that don’t seem to change much and that you may need to find ways to work on to help you to move forward and build healing in your life?
  • What suggestions can you share to help others learn to move forward?