The unbearable pain of moving on

Andy Walker
6 min readJan 12, 2024

Dealing with loss and grief is hard and happens at its own pace

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

When we experience a loss it can be hard to move on with our lives. This loss might come in the form of losing a person that we love or suddenly finding the career we’ve poured our heart and soul into being torn away from us. It can even be having someone we loved working with suddenly depart. The suddenness of it happening can feel like an assault on our very sense of self.

We feel lost and can easily enter into a cycle of self doubt and self loathing because, deep down, we know that grief is a selfish act. When we lose a person we initially frame it in terms of the hole in our lives and our impotence in being able to prevent that loss. When we lose a career we frame it in terms our inadequacy and insecurity about the future. When faced with these feelings everyone reacts differently.

In some cases, we were ready to move on anyway and it can come as a relief. When my father died a couple of years back the overwhelming feeling was relief. He’d been seriously ill with various cancers, diabetes, COPD, and high blood pressure for nearly 10 years and his quality of life had dropped precipitously. He couldn’t answer his front door without needing oxygen and a 15 minute rest. That doesn’t mean I don’t dream about him (and mum), waking up crying. But, I knew and had known for some time it was coming. I’d even rehearsed parts of his eulogy in my head as a way of fixing his memory in my head so I could celebrate the best parts of him.

A work related example of how people can be ready to move on can be found in the current Google layoffs and comes from Ben Collins-Sussman’s goodbye where he described his exit after 18 years as:

a sense of relief. The conflict between “uncomfortable culture” and “golden handcuffs” was becoming intolerable.

Sometimes we experience loss at the right time and moving on is about acknowledging something we knew to be true already. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience grief or that it’s easy. Just that we start further down the journey. This is also a rare example of leadership where someone is aware enough to empathise with other people while they are going through things.

--

--

Andy Walker

Interested in solving complex problems without complexity and self sustaining self improving organisations.