“Moving Forward” Image by David Mark
Trigger Warning: Discussion around suicide and depression
Moving Forward During a Loss
I lost a friend recently. Honestly I could go on and on about how wonderful they were (and they really were wonderful). Spontaneous, talented, funny, creative, unapologetic about who they were. Truly a bright light.
They were a member of the theater company I am a part of, and I won’t speak too deeply into how we are going to move forward as a group since we are very much still figuring that out (and even recently participated in a group grief counseling session). I will say however that I have found it’s incredibly important for me personally to not ignore my thoughts and feelings about them when they come. Of course I have to be able to work and move forward with daily tasks but that doesn’t mean I ignore these feelings.
When this friend pops into my mind, I have found it is helpful to feel the sadness when it’s there but also remind myself to be thankful for this moment. I know that sounds a little backwards- how can I be thankful in a moment like this?
Letting Thoughts Flow
The truth is that though of course I am sad and grieving right now, I am only doing so because of how positively this person has affected my life. These thoughts generally come in response to something that reminds me of my friend, so I choose to close my eyes for a minute, sit into those moments with some joy, and remember. A friend once described thoughts during a meditation to me in this way. We should not attempt to ignore thoughts as they come but rather think of our mind as a river, let the thought (and any associated feelings) flow through, and move forward.
Personally, I believe it is the same with grief. I think of these thoughts not as something sad that is interrupting my day but rather as a wave of something familiar that is taking the time to wash over me in this moment. When they come, I take a moment to feel them fully, sadness and joy, and let it fuel me to move forward with my day. I say “thank you” to my friend for giving me this memory and “thank you” to whatever reminded me of it for slowing my pace for a moment.
Forward Looks Different for Everyone
When someone leaves us in this way, particularly when they choose to leave, it is easy to try to infuse ourselves in the situation. It’s difficult not to wonder what more we could have done. “What if I had…?” If I have learned anything from this event, it is that sometimes someone will choose not to move forward, even if those around them have expressed concern, love, or offers of support. Depression is an invisible but powerful illness and ultimately it is up to the individual facing it to reach out.
That is not to say we are helpless when we see signs of someone struggling. We should certainly make our availability for support known if we have the capacity to. It should just be considered in a moment like this that showing up, being a friend, and just being a good listener are all far more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. It does no good to dwell on what we could have or should have done. The way to move forward is by being present, being a good friend, and asking for help when you need it.