Updated: Aug 10, 2020
I was listening to this podcast (TED Radio Hour: Moving Forward - June 20, 2019) and I took comfort in hearing several stories from people who experienced trauma, guilt, and grief in their lives and found a way to ‘move forward’.
We’re all going to have our own story and experience of what happened to our loved one and how it has also impacted us. No two stories will be alike. Your experience will not be like mine, nor anyone else’s because we have our own unique past history with a unique group of people and circumstances.
One thing I believe we do have in common is that we are all moving forward. And we're learning how to move forward differently than we were before. What's different is that we’re now moving forward with grief and trauma (and probably a few other emotions) integrated into our lives.
I don’t know about you, but this has all become part of the fabric of my being. It's so interwoven into who I am. There’s no going back to who I was and it's taken a bit of getting used to the "today" me. Some days it still isn't all that comfortable and I'd love to exchange myself or get some sort of refund. While on other days, like those TED stories, I feel that I have found meaning and purpose because of who and where I am today. I haven't completely broken in this new me, but I am getting more acquainted and comfortable with her.
When and how does that happen?
It certainly does not happen overnight, and I try not put any timeline or expectation on it. It happens as it happens. For me, it slowly creeps up and sometimes still recedes, slides sideways, then gets to moving forward again.
I noticed a leap in my emotional state when I began to ask myself these kinds of questions: What are my eyes, heart, and soul now open to? What have I learned about myself? Others? How has my relationship with my loved one change? What do I do with this experience? Is there an opportunity to learn and grow from this? How have I grown?
These were just some of the questions I was asking myself as I began to look for meaning and purpose in what happened --- and that's what moving forward has felt like and meant to me.
We’ve heard that saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’*. It’s kind of like that. Of course I wouldn’t actively sign up for pain and suffering, and we all respond to trauma and life's difficulties in our own way. Yet when we absorb our life‘s experiences, especially the challenging ones, there is an opportunity for us to become stronger because of it. And "stronger“ can be defined in so many ways! It could mean that our eyes are now opened to something we've never seen before. Maybe we are less biased about something. Maybe our relationship with another has improved because we now have empathy and compassion. Maybe we have uncovered a sense of purpose or mission for ourselves. And maybe we have no idea yet how any of this has made us stronger. And maybe you think what I am saying is ridiculous. But I guarantee that once you get a few steps closer to acceptance, you will begin to discover all variations of strength and maybe start to see how you've become stronger (resiliency, compassion, empathy, improved interpersonal relationships, gratitude).
I think we are all living proof of the scientific definition of evolution: the process of growth and development; or the theory that organisms have grown and developed from past organisms. We are the amalgamation of the person we were, with the person we are now. And I believe we continue to evolve, develop, and grow until our very last breath.
(*In 1888, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote “Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens.—Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker,” which can be translated as “Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” It has been translated quoted in several variations, but is generally used as an affirmation of resilience. He also wrote "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.")