Life is not over for us when our loved one dies, but it sure changes. I know I've never been the same since December 13, 1999, the date of my wife's death. The grief has been hard. Even after all these years I still carry some sadness, but it has also helped me.
About nine months after Janiece died, I was invited to join a support group at my church. On one of the videos we watched, Dr. Ray Pritchard said: “You can’t go back. You can’t stay here. You must go forward.”
I knew those words were true the minute I heard them, but even so I resisted the thought of going forward. I didn’t like the idea of a future that didn’t include her. But I had no choice. The door to that part of my life had been closed.
The only direction to go was forward, and it would hurt. But the reasoning side of me eventually relented. I told myself, You’re going to hurt no matter what, so you might as well hurt while going forward.
Sometimes it helps to put words to our challenges so we can face them better, so we can remind ourselves that life consists of more than we are seeing and feeling at the moment. That’s what I did when I decided to label my grief journey Hurting Forward. It gave me a perspective on life that could accept severe sadness without being overwhelmed by it.
At this point in your grief journey, it may be all you can do to get out of bed. That’s forward. Maybe you’ve conquered getting up and even cleaning up, and now you’re ready to leave the house. That’s forward. Maybe you’re ready to go to the grocery store on your own, or back to church, or to accept a friend's invitation to coffee. Forward. Forward. And forward.
It’s probably asking too much of you to celebrate each step, but can you at least acknowledge that you’re moving forward? Can you recognize that you’re finding the pain a little more bearable today than it was last week? If you can, that’s forward.
I was naive in the early days of grief. Really naive. I actually thought that if I could get to the 40-day mark after Janiece’s death, I would feel much better. I didn’t expect life to be normal, but I really thought 40 days would get me to a much more settled state.
That didn’t happen.
But . . . there came a morning a few months later when my waking thought wasn’t about loneliness or sadness but about what I needed to get done that day.
That was forward.
Hurting forward is not about “moving on” or “getting over,” as if the life of your loved one no longer has meaning to you. It is realism overlaid with grace. It’s learning to walk with a limp. It’s pain management for a soul whose life has been interrupted and who is learning a new way forward.
© 2021 by Tim Grissom. All rights reserved.