Learning to move forward

Learning to move forward

Anshu Arora

What do you tell a young girl who got married in February, whose life partner just flies off in December, straight into the arms of death? What do you tell the parents of a 30-year old young handsome man who has to give fire to the funeral pyre of their own son? Or what do you tell someone who moves away from a long-invested relationship and has to leave behind her child?

Can you dare say ‘move on’?

How does that young girl move on? How does that father move on from the loss of a son? How does a woman leave behind a child after a divorce and move on? I have personally never understood these two words – move on! We all face incidents in our lives, which disappoint us or cause us grief. Friends, family and well wishers who are trying to support in this phase ask us to ‘move on’.

Learning the ropes

I tried. I failed. I could not move on. That is because, I was always thinking of the good times of my past life. I was always imagining my future sans my husband and daughter and it scared me. I would visualise myself all alone and I would break. I just could not move on.

The obvious question therefore is, how do you get on with life because IT had happened. What had to happen had already happened. What I am sharing today is: what was the alternative I took? How did I make peace? How did I get on with life?

I used to experience a lot of pressure whenever anyone said: move on. I had a whole life behind me, one that I was being asked to perhaps forget and move on. Also, this was a life I had contributed absolutely honestly to. My efforts and actions all these years were sincere, straight from the heart and very emotional. Obviously, I was holding on tight to all I possessed.

The relationships, the family and that life that I had built over 17 years. In my brain, I was being asked to move on from my safe abode. What I was unable to see, and what others could very clearly see: was that my safe abode had run out of space. It’s like someone pokes out their elbow on a desk and says, this is mine and gradually you are moved to the corner of that table. You then realise that the space that you are left with is not enough to do anything at all. It is then that you get up and leave that desk, to find another seat. It felt exactly like that. All seemed to be pointing out their elbows beyond their marked areas into mine and the encroachment had begun.

Just two days ago, I was quietly looking at a young girl who had lost her 30-year old husband. I could only imagine what must be going on in her mind. How would she feel if anyone even dared to tell her, “Child, you have to move on!” I am a firm believer, that it is near impossible to move on. You cannot forget, leave behind or forgive. You cannot forget the love, the memories, the times together, some really small instances, some places you visited or some casual laughter filled moments. Those pictures that one has clicked and saved in the mental memory cannot be deleted in order to move on.

These movies auto-playback. My very dear friend has a long route to her work place. For 45 years she has been earning her bread and butter and travelling on the same route. She lost her husband to a very tragic accident. After so many years, when she travels on the same route, still earning her bread and butter, she reaches out to her husband in her thoughts and silently converses with him about how life has moved on and is still stagnant at the same time. The movie of the moving road auto-plays in her head. Along the road, while heading to her current destination she clearly sees what she has lost on the path. Can she ever move on?

All we can attempt to do is carry these auto-play movies with us and attempt to move forward.

The stages

Let yourself feel whatever you feel without any embarrassment or judgement. In times of grief, you may feel the desire to ‘speed up’ grief. That’s a normal response, but unfortunately, that’s not really possible. Be patient with yourself and even your grief.

As I view my own journey, largely, we would all walk these five steps:

1. Denial

2. Isolation

3. Anger

4. Bargaining

5. Depression

6. Acceptance

You may not experience these stages in a linear order or all at once. You might experience denial one day and acceptance the next. You may want to move to a quiet isolated zone more often. Anger may overpower you another day with questions like why me? Why him? Why so soon? Why after 17 years? There could also be extensive bargaining in your alone moments: If I would have stopped this pattern… If I could spend just one more day with him… God, if you bring my son back, I promise I will … If I hadn’t gone to that hospital, I could have saved him…, etc.

All these stages occur, but not in any predictable fashion or order. However, when you give yourself time to heal, you will find that peace might be waiting on the other side, just as you begin moving forward.

Moving forward

I live in a rented accommodation. Every time the landlord asks me to vacate, I start looking at a few things I can discard. I assess the items I have and see what are the things I haven’t used for the last six months. I put my entire home under screening.

Leave some things and take some. Some things I always carry, few others I discard. As I have understood life, we do the same. When we experience loss, deceit or death, or any other incident that shatters us, we do the same.

Our mind packs and moves a collection of memories and wherever we go, whatever we do, we always carry that with us. We move FORWARD not move ON. We move forward carrying along the loss and the pain, and that is perfectly alright. We don’t have to be separate from our pain but can, instead, embrace it with the spirit of holding the memories, instead of trying to move on from the loss.

Don’t cut yourself off from it. You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.  All you need to do is take a step. Let us understand it this way, water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall. It takes the shape of the container or the surface it is in. We have to remember that we are half water. If we can’t go through an obstacle, we can go around it. Just like water.

Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in your journey.

One day at a time

For me, I too took tiny steps, day in and day out, until I knew I was finally moving down the right path again. The real battle is always in your mind. And your mind is under your control, not the other way around. What worked for me was when I decided that I don’t want to dwell on what went wrong. I changed my focus to, what next.

It is obvious that there are things that we never want to let go of or people we never want to leave behind. The idea here, as I understood is that we must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is now waiting for us.

While doing this, you may want to fall into bed with no intentions of ever returning to polite society again, and that’s OK to do for a while. But you should eventually let people back into your life, especially since doing so can help you move forward.

Everyone deals with loss differently, so there’s no ‘right’ way to move forward. Maybe you’re a crying mess, or a totally hilarious joke cracking person or an overeater or a long walker. Wherever you fall on the spectrum is fine. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to move forward.

Riding the gratitude boat

While you go through these stages on this path of moving forward try to practice gratitude. Gratitude was my game changer on this journey of moving forward. It helped me shift my perspective in a big way. Gratitude indeed is empowering and it has the power to shift one out of a dark space so as to lean towards the light. Much like sunshine on a winter morning. I started expressing gratitude towards what I was saved from. What the possible pain could have been. Moving forward came with everyday expression of gratitude for what I had left with me. For what life could have been, if things had turned worse. I started being grateful for all I had and that helped me to move forward.

When I decided to carry my emotional assets with me as I transitioned to a new space, I kept reminding myself, and perhaps you can do too, is that the meaning of moving forward is that you are willing to continue even during difficult times. It also implies that you keep fighting until the obstacles – no matter how huge – are overcome. Realise that IT has happened and staying in that space will be suffocating.

Carry that bag, move forward, be grateful and wait for life’s kindness to unfold. When any disaster happens, in that very moment we feel that this is the end and that it is all over. It appears all dark. However, it is in that very moment that we need to make space for faith, kindness and gratitude. It is when we are in that situation, we realise that with this unbearable pain comes the very strength to bear it. Simply, create a grateful heart.

‘Sweet is thy will: Tera Bhaana Meetha Laage’ is a true refuge and you know it when with that piggy back you rest your foot on the very first step of the ‘Moving Forward Ladder’.