If only there was a formula for letting go and moving on. We could quantify and plug in our pain.
The result would most likely be a higher number than we wanted, but at least we would know.
As you might have already guessed, it’s not that easy.
There’s no exact science for estimating how long it takes to move on from the end of a relationship, job, experience, place or death.
The process is too subjective.
Fortunately, it is possible to move on from almost anything, and the journey doesn’t need to consume you for the rest of your life.
By taking the steps we outline here, you can accelerate progress and use suffering as an opportunity to figure out who you are and what you want.
What Does It Mean to ‘Move On’?
“Move on.” We throw around those two little words with the assumption that everyone shares our definition.
But, like the period of time needed to move on, the meaning of the words varies between people and situations.
The Literal Definition: It Starts With Acceptance of the End
Let’s start with the literal aspect of moving on.
If you leave one job and start another, you have physically moved on from one employer to another employer.
The same can be said of changing your residence, terminating a relationship, or acknowledging someone’s passing. Outside, the situation has changed, but inside, you may not have adapted to the change—a transformational process that usually takes longer than the outer change itself.
After a big change, life is now physically different, and you are acknowledging that difference. Simply by thinking about “moving on,” you have begun the process of transformation.
This fact may seem obvious, but it’s important to give credit to ourselves whenever we can. To acknowledge that something has changed and ended is the first step of the transformation that’s necessary for us to make in order to move on.
Many people don’t find the closure that allows them to move on because they refuse to accept that something has ended.
Imagine a husband and wife who live together but no longer love each other romantically. They have not realized their romantic relationship is over. Until they are honest with each other, they won’t begin to separate and move on, or re-visit their vows to each other, and they’ll be trapped in a loveless marriage.
Compared to this common situation, by acknowledging that something has ended, you have made progress. Regardless of whether the change and decision to move on was your choice, you are aware of what is happening and able to transform.
The Mental Definition: Closure
Mentally speaking, “moving on” is closure, and closure sometimes to have closure it’s important to understand what you had, what happened to end it, how it happened, and why.
If a partner breaks up with you, it’ll be hard to gain closure if they don’t explain their reasoning, or if neither of you had a grasp on what the relationship was.
Answering a few questions can help you to get closure and determine how long it will take you to move on.
6 Questions for Estimating How Long It Takes to Move On
Again, it’s not an exact science, and we advise against rushing. Nonetheless, there are factors you can evaluate to arrive at your own estimate.
1. Was it your decision to move on?
Choosing to move on can still be a struggle, but that scenario at least has agency and control.
When moving on isn’t your choice, the journey can be more arduous.
2. Do you want to move on?
This is the quintessential question. Until the answer is yes, the process can’t begin.
As we mentioned earlier, wanting to move on is a big step. If you break up with someone because they were bad for you, it’s common for there to still be an overwhelming desire to take back all that you gave.
And although closure is what we need, it’s not always what we want.
3. Do you know who you are and what you want?
When people don’t know who they are or what they want, they are inclined to define themselves and their desires through other people, jobs, or places.
After one of these anchors inevitably breaks, there is a void that is more distressing for people who haven’t found their own internal purpose.
4. Do you have a solid support system?
Quality friends and coaches can be invaluable when attempting to move on, especially if a romantic partner is no longer able to provide support. One way they can help is by helping you to become aware of your spiritual values and what you live for, regardless of changing circumstances.
A community — spiritual or otherwise — may also provide the guidance and comfort you need. Time moves faster when you’re not alone.
5. Do you struggle with change?
Some people have an affinity for change. They love to study abroad or get a new job. Perhaps they developed resiliency by growing up with constant transitions.
Then there are those of us who cling to routines and stability. When we like something, we desperately want it to remain the same forever.
6. Are you open to trying the methods we mention below?
Calculating the amount of time may not be an exact science, but there are many practices and exercises that are scientifically proven to accelerate the rate at which people move on from traumatic events.
Are you already open to them? If not, how long will it take you to change your mind?
What Can You Do to Help With Moving On?
Moving on is challenging and time-consuming, but finding helpful resources takes only a few keystrokes and clicks. Here are the methods we recommend:
Life Coaching and Therapy
The “Who are you?” question we posed earlier is pretty tough. The rewards are worth it, though.
If you want help reaching the answer, try working with a life coach. Psychotherapy can also be part of the healing process.
Read Books and Articles About Moving On
You’re trying this one right now! Take a moment to give yourself credit.
We’re not the only resource that’s worth reading, though. William Bridges literally wrote the book on coping with changes. The Bridges Transition Model provides a visual and mental landscape for much of the material we cover in our article.
Keep a Journal About Your Transition Milestones
If you track your progress, connect the dots and zoom out, you’ll have a high-level overview of what you’ve been through and where you’re going. Sometimes journaling or creating a life map can help with this.
This documentation could be crucial for figuring out those big questions of who you are and what you want.
What’s Your Estimate?
Remember to ask yourself the questions we listed above.
If you’re not happy with the answers, the good news is it’s possible to change most situations.
You can develop a support system by joining a local community, and a life coach can help you answer the toughest questions.
Even if your time estimate for moving on is several years, those years can be well spent.