the difference between moving on and forgetting

Throughout our lives we face tough experiences that we wish didn’t happen, or at the very least, we wish we could forget. Some can block these experiences and speak of them very little, if ever. Some take years to move on, bringing up the trauma frequently in conversation, and never seeming to be truly free of the pain. 

The truth is that neither of these approaches are good nor bad. I believe it is unhealthy to detach from hurt and not deal with it but it is also unhealthy to drown in your grief by reliving it constantly. There is an important and healthy balance to handling these experiences.

I tend to be the talker. I will write about, talk about, think about, and share a difficult experience until I can’t anymore. When brought to my attention that I practice this behavior, my defense is always I can’t let myself forget. If I let myself forget, then what was the point of learning the hard lesson? But has the lesson been learned if I’m on this continuous loop of reliving it?

People that can go through something horrible and never speak of it. They seem to easily go about there lives, freed by detachment. Detachment is a lot easier for them than for someone like me. These are the friends that will tell you to “just forget about it” on the days that “forgetting about it” seems most impossible.

When is detachment a good idea? In the beginning when you mentally, emotionally, and physically can’t deal with the truth, I think it’s okay to practice detachment. Then slowly, you must process it so that you can move on. We can’t get over something that we haven’t worked through and processed. When we deal with it and move on, we should actually move on, and not live in that sad place anymore. So then what is the difference between moving on and forgetting?

You’re never going to forget what happened to you that has hurt or changed you. What you want to carry with you however, is not the bad experience or person, but the lesson you learned from it. The lessons we learn from these experiences can leave a positive impact on us and better our lives, even if the situation was painful. 

For example, don’t replay the story of how you felt victimized when someone did something to you that was difficult to process. Instead replay the message of how that lesson has made you more aware and has since bettered your life. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and looking back I don’t know if I ever felt “stronger” but I certainly felt wiser, more appreciative, and better equipped to handle whatever life may bring.

We can move on with our lives without completely forgetting a terrible experience and we can learn from it without reliving it every day. We can stop talking about it and trust that we’ll make better decisions from here on out, whether it’s who we let in or who we keep out. Our sad days should never define us. Be you, out in the world, happy and rejuvenated. Only sing the song of your sad days as a lesson when needed, most often to encourage and inspire others, and only after people get to know you without it first.

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More about Erika Lauren

Erika Lauren is a Boston born French girl spending her days as a workin girl and dog mom, and her nights as a nocturnal writer. She's a content creator for The Haute Mess, XOJane, and Email:

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