Moving forward after a loss
The other night I had a bad dream. I arrived at an airport, ready to embark on the trip of a lifetime. I had my suitcase full of clothes, but at the last moment, I realized I had forgotten everything else! I didn’t have my laptop, my Kindle, my journal, my maps, my travel guidebook. These are things I consider essential for travel.
I had to take this amazing trip, but I wouldn’t have those essentials with me. There was no time to go back home and get them. I had no choice but to move forward and get on the airplane.
I felt devastated. I am lost without something to read! What will I do if I don’t have my laptop? How can I write a travel journal? I didn’t want to go without these things.
Even though this was just a dream, I think it serves as an allegory for what is happening in my life right now. This summer I lost someone very close to me when a friendship ended. I have another close family member in hospice right now, and we are all praying for her to pass peacefully. Moving forward in my life will feel a lot like how it felt in the dream — that I am forced to move forward, but without two people who are essential to me.
In my dream, I was forced to board the plane without my essentials. In life, when we lose something or someone, we don’t always feel that force impelling us to move forward. Sometimes it’s easier to stop, or to sink in place. Without that moving forward, we stagnate. We fall into depression. We stop living.
That happened to me this summer. Without my best friend, I fell into despair. What was wrong with me, that my friend didn’t want to hang out anymore? Was I not exciting enough? Too fat, too old, too boring? I spiraled downward in a swirl of negative thinking. I stopped going out, and some days I didn’t get out of the house except to walk the dog. I lost interest in the things I love to do, like write this blog.
I was able to move forward with the help of other friends and my family. My daughters actually staged a sort of intervention with me: Mom, we know you’re depressed, how can we help?
I know that just because I am grieving for my aunt in hospice, that doesn’t make me boring. It makes me human. The experience of grief — truly feeling those awful feelings of loss and despair — needs to be acknowledged. Depression needs to be recognized and felt, too, as bad as it is. Otherwise we never reach the point where we can begin to move forward.
I spent the summer denying my depression, thinking that my episodes were “just a bad day” or bumps in the road. It took my family to help me see otherwise.
So today I am moving forward. I’m getting on the metaphorical plane, but without my former friend, and without my aunt. I am blessed to have loved ones around me, people who will hold space for me and check in with me.
I hope that today you can move forward, too.