In November 2018, writer and podcaster Nora McInerny gave an amazing TED talk. She founded the Hot Young Widows Club, a US Facebook group for people widowed young. When she asked the group what phrases they hated most hearing in the early days of grief, 'moving on' came close to the top.
'Moving on' implies that the people we have lost are firmly in the past and that's exactly where we should leave them. But, the people we have lost do continue to be present with us; and that's as it should be. It doesn't mean that we are clinging onto a ghost of a dead person, rather that we are influenced by all the people that we have ever known and loved.
After Tim died, it felt like everything was gone. But with hard work, amazing support from friends, family plus the charity Widowed and Young, and some psychotherapy, I rebuilt my life. But I didn't 'feel' it. Feeling better felt wrong, because I thought it meant I was moving on and leaving him behind. Forgetting him. Falling out of love with him. Coping without him, the man who I described as the still centre of my turning world. These feelings sabotaged my journey, because I was afraid of letting go of my grief.
McInerny's talk changed things for me. I started talking about moving forward, which takes our people with us, rather than moving on, which leaves them behind. Even so, I still had to give myself permission to feel happy.
I had to let go of some of my grief. I had to learn that letting go isn't about forgetting them. It's about helping ourselves to live in the now. About understanding that we are who we are because they were in our lives, and because we went through the trauma of bereavement. It helped me to remember that Tim's memories live inside me through my continuing bonds with him.
"How long will I grieve? You will always grieve. In time grief changes and rather than be consumed by sadness we remember with love and happiness."
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.