Moving Through, Not Moving On


We were in the car. He was driving too fast.  We started to swerve. My mom yelled. He gasped.  As he lost control I braced for the crash.


The phone rang and snapped me awake.

My stepmom answered it. “Oh hi Pauline. Yes. Oh no. Oh that’s terrible. Ok… Ok…. Ok…Bye.”

She sunk onto my bed. With a big sigh she started to talk. Her words were clear yet they blended together into something unintelligible. I knew what she was trying to say but I needed to hear the words.

She gently put her hand on mine as she said, “Honey I am so sorry. Your mom is in heaven.”

I was 16.

What now? I wondered.

Again I braced myself.  My foundation was uprooted. If my grief wasn’t so heavy I might have floated away, having lost my root, my mom.

In the weeks and months that followed it felt like everyone else moved on. “How could they?” I wondered. To me moving on meant walking away. Letting memories slip out of my head. Forever erased and forgotten.

I vowed that *I* would never move on. Never walk away. Never forget. Move on? I didn’t even think I would recover. That same feeling has consumed me every time someone I love takes their last breath.

A few months ago I read a man’s account of losing his wife. His wife died violently. Suddenly. Tragically. He described what he and his children experienced. He said, “We aren’t moving on. We are moving through.”

Gasp. I lingered on those words. “YES,” I thought. In all this time, with all my losses I hadn’t moved on. I had moved through.

Even though the words grabbed my attention I couldn’t pinpoint what they meant. How did I “move through?”

To me moving through means…

accepting things will be different.

adjusting to a new circumstance.

talking to my mom (and others) silently in my heart.

remembering what I  can. Always.

letting some memories slip away. Peacefully.

feeling grateful for each person that was part of my life.

experiencing every emotion that comes with grief. Not just sadness.



The words that man spoke stirred up so many emotions. Ultimately they gave me the peace I’ve been seeking for more than 20 years.

Now I know that walking forward is not walking away. And that while life moves on, I move through. With memories. With gratitude. With love.


8 thoughts on “Moving Through, Not Moving On

  1. Sadie says:

    Wow, that’s a really great way to look at it. We all have moments when we have to let go of someone – whether separated by death or other circumstance – and trying to give up the memories and what that person meant to you can feel like you are giving up a part of yourself. Letting go of the memories can also feel like a declaration that the bond you shared with that person wasn’t real or wasn’t as meaningful as it really was to you. I like this new concept because it opens up a more balanced path on which to tread in such instances. It’s a way to move forward peacefully while holding onto the meaning that you shared.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • jillshaul says:

      The way I feel about “moving on” is disloyal. It’s as if letting go is a reflection on how I feel about the person and our connection. Moving through is something I can do (and it rhymes which is even more fun”. I love what you said “It’s a way to move forward peacefully while holding onto the meaning that you shared”. Beautiful.

  2. Intense. And also true. So very, very true. Making peace with the fact that many of the memories are going to fade (when that is all you have left of them) is the hardest part in my experience. Especially when it is sudden. I have found leaving them in the past is bitter-sweet, but unavoidable to move “through” (love it) the grief and live. Thanks for sharing!

    • jillshaul says:

      I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the fading of memories or the disappearance of experiences like the sound of someone’s voice or the feel of their touch.

  3. Bettina Baumgart says:

    Beautifully written and what a great insight. You should try to publish it.

  4. JMF says:

    You are amazing with your words. Simply beautiful! Your Mom and Step-Mom will always be with you and their lives were brighter because you were in them. Sending peace, love and light.

  5. Paula KIbbe says:

    JIll, beautifully written. And though some details may fade from your memory, the essence of loved ones will never fade. You will forever hold the most important memories, traits and lessons in your heard and mind. And you’ll see glimpses of your Mom in your beautiful girls, if you haven’t already. So, no, you’ll never completely move on, but you don’t need to worry about forgetting — you wont!

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