Moving on is not the same as forgetting. Moving on after the death of a loved one, especially a spouse, just means actively engaging in life. It means reaching a point where the mourner has things to look forward to again. J. William Worden, PhD tells us the fourth task mourners must accomplish as they move through grief is to “find an enduring connection with the deceased while moving on with life.”
In Worden’s model, moving on is described as a task rather than a stage. That’s an important distinction and implies active engagement on the part of the mourner. It gives the survivor some control and responsibility for the direction of their life moving forward.
The more closely entwined the mourner’s life was to the life of the deceased the harder it will be to “move on with life.” When a person’s life has been moving along in lock step with a spouse or partner for the better part of his or her adult life, the adjustment can be very difficult.
Some mourners will decide to move on with life as a single. That will mean changing plans. The trips or activities a couple planned to do together will now need to be undertaken alone, with a friend, or abandoned and changed entirely. An open mind and willingness to stretch one’s comfort zone can bring new opportunities.
When one door closes another door opens. Painful as it is to lose a spouse, it is possible to find yourself with time to engage in hobbies or interests that had be put on the shelf because they were not enjoyed by a partner.
Some mourners will partner up again with someone new. With that method of moving on comes the task of overcoming fear and putting oneself out there … dating. It may mean working with other family members to gain acceptance of the new person in one’s life. It will most certainly mean adjusting to new expectations, personalities, and habits. A new spouse will never be just like the one who died.
Whatever the path a widow or widower takes new skills will need to be learned, new things will need to be tried, and adjustments made. It takes work. But then isn’t that just a part of life?