I’m not sure who was the first to say it, but after my daughter, Dorothy, died there were many who assured me that I would move on. They phrased it like a promise — a reassurance that one day soon I would set down my grief and return to a life of happiness. In my early days of grief, where my mind was numb and I couldn’t find the words, I would just nod in reply.
I didn’t want to argue, but it seemed unfathomable that I would ever be able to move on from the trauma of losing my child.
As I became accustomed to my grieving heart, I began to really push back at this notion of moving on. I felt like a failure because my grief was not matching up with the time constraints that others were placing upon me.
It made me angry when people would put a timeline on my grief.
There was one particular instance where a family member let me know that it took about a year to move on from “something like this.” (Yes, you heard that right. The “something like this” he was referring to, was the death of my child.) I hated hearing that. The more people urged me to move on from Dorothy’s death the more firmly I planted my feet.
The concept of moving on terrified me.
It terrified me because, the way I understood grief, it meant that I could only move on if I left my daughter behind. I thought if I wanted any chance at living life beyond her death, then Dorothy could not come with me. There was no way I was going to leave my child behind, so I sunk further into my anger and depression. If this was where Dorothy lived, then this is where I would live too.
This was my struggle for many months, living on the cusp of the life I felt ready to return to and the life I was afraid to let go of.
I didn’t know how to live in both worlds. If I moved on then people would forget what I had been through, and worse, they would forget Dorothy. They would think I was “cured” and I was now realizing that there was no cure for heartbreak like this. I was worried that others would think my happiness had completely replaced the sadness of living without Dorothy. I didn’t want to move on and leave her behind.
So, I didn’t.
Instead, I made the decision to move forward and to bring her with me.
It was a different kind of moving than I had once imagined. Before losing Dorothy, I believed in the misconception that moving on meant forgetting. Now I know that it doesn’t have to be that way. After the death of a loved one, you are allowed to move forward in life and you can bring the person you miss with you.
I no longer view grief as a timeline, I now understand that grief is forever.
Grief is forever because love is forever. I have accepted the fact that my grief is a burden, but my daughter is not. Carrying her has given me the strength to carry the grief that would otherwise weigh me down.
So, to those who promised me that I would move on. You were right. I have moved on after the death of my daughter — and I’m taking her with me. It’s just as it should be.