There is No Rewind Button for Life

I have been hearing a theme in my sessions the past few weeks.  And I think it might be a theme that sounds familiar to you.  This is a theme that comes up any time I am helping someone explore a serious loss or major change in life.  It is the theme of regret, of sadness, of wanting life to be the way it was beforeBefore the test results came back.  Before the car accident.  Before whatever moment we learned that our lives were permanently changed.

5691331436_c21738b62eBecause there is no rewind button for life.

We don’t get the option of going back in time to make things turn out differently.  No matter how much you beat yourself up now, what has happened is what you’ve got.  And that can be hard to swallow.

Getting to a place of being able to accept loss and move forward isn’t an easy journey.  Whether the loss is of a loved one, or of your sense of safety in your body, the first thing that needs to happen is to create space where your sadness, anger, fear, frustration, and uncertainty can be expressed.  Expressed without being minimized or “cheered away.”  Because it can be hard for people who love you to watch while you process those tough feelings, it might be helpful to get support from a therapist or a group.

Along with allowing space for your feelings, it is also important to make room to think about how you want your life to look now.  (Many people will answer this by saying that they want to go back to before, but, as we’ve established, that’s not an actual option.)  This is your after, the part that follows a moment when your life changed forever.  And part of how you honor what came before,  whether it was time with a loved one or the joy of a healthy body, is choosing to be present and engaged now.

So, this week, I am inviting you to take a moment and do a bit of a self-check.  Are you feeling stuck in wishing for before?  Does a lot of your time and energy go into trying to force life to rewind?  Is it hard for you to connect to the present moment or to plan for the future?

If you answered “yes’ to any of those questions, I hope that today’s post helps you take a step toward getting unstuck.  That you are inspired to reach out for support.  That you allow yourself to look past the pain, sadness, and fear to consider what might happen tomorrow.  That you don’t let your longing for before prevent you from having the best possible after.

If you have suggestions of steps that have helped you move past a major loss or life change, please feel free to share them in the comments.


Image Credit: Photo by Christina Welsh via Flicker under Creative Commons License

9 thoughts on “There is No Rewind Button for Life

  1. It might sound contradictory, but how I have and do actually move forward is by writing about my life before, during and after my cancer diagnosis (and other things too). I also write about loss. Writing has been a hugely important tool in helping me to move forward following both of these major life changes. I guess writing allows me to make room for my feelings and move forward at the same time. Great post! Great title!

  2. Ann,

    Personally, I don’t really want this life at all. The constant pain, the constant fear, the annoying side-effects that affect every single part of my body except my appendix, the now distant husband, the kids that need therapy, the bills, the friends who say “Oh, You still have that pain?” There is no looking past the pain, the sadness or the fear – all of them are here to stay.

    I’d like to be done with it all.

    But like you say – not really an option.

    So my (third )therapist has me going through a book called “The Grief Recovery Handbook”. It has been very helpful. I’m in the process of saying goodbye to my old life and making a new one. One that is in no way anything close to the “new normal” every one talks about. Nothing normal about it. But a life. You get what you get.

    So I’ll do the best with what I get.

    Thanks for addressing this difficult topic.

    Dianne Duffy

    1. Diane,

      Thank you so much for your candid reflection on this struggle. You make an important point about the difficulty of the “new normal” label–we have what we have, but it may not be “normal” at all. More on why I dislike “normal” at another time. Thoughts of strength to you as you continue your process of building a new life.


  3. My way to “honor what came before” includes allowing space for the periodic grief. Much of this revolves around the death of loved ones. Allowing myself to remember them and to miss their loving presence allows me to then be present with those who I love that are with me now.

  4. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool sentimentalist, so even when life is good, I find myself reaching back to when the boys were babies, or I was single and had more free time then I knew what to do with….and before I hit my head and landed in the ICU. What helps me is mindfulness meditation. Here and now is all we really have. Memories are great, but they’re no substitute for the present moment.

    1. Colleen,

      Oh, mindfulness–one of my favorite go-to pieces of the coping toolkit. And I think that all of us have a bit of the “rose-colored glasses” effect when we are looking backwards in life to “simpler times.” I agree with you, the present moment is precious time!


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