Moving Forward Following Life-Altering Events

Do you remember where you were September 11, 2001?

I was enjoying a cool fall morning on our deck, drinking a cup of hot tea, and working on an article. We live somewhat near the airport and occasionally hear air traffic, but that morning I suddenly became aware of a dramatic increase in activity overhead. I thought it odd, but continued with my work. Then I heard the phone ringing inside (no keeping the cell phone constantly beside you in 2001). When I answered the phone, my husband blurted, “Are you watching the news?” We continued talking as I turned on the TV and saw the second of the twin towers collapse. For the next two hours, I hardly moved from my perch on the sofa, watching, swallowing fear, and trying to absorb what was unfolding before my eyes.

While not always on the level of 9-11, all of us experience events that feel catastrophic at the time, that shape and change us. Following are insights on moving forward after life-altering events:

A Death

September 11 was a red-letter day in my life long before 2001. My precious father died from cancer 9-11-91, far sooner than any of us wanted. The death of a loved one, especially one who has had a positive impact on your life and the lives of others, changes everything. Death robs you not only of the presence of the person, but if you allow it, the death of a loved one can freeze you in grief and uncertainty and halt forward motion.

Instead, look at what you learned from the person who is no longer present. Be thankful for your time together. Cherish memories. Allow yourself to grieve, but also allow the loss to inspire you to move ahead with things you’ve put off—relationships that need mending, goals that you’ve sidetracked, challenges you’ve skirted around. While loss is difficult and grief is a process, the death of someone you love doesn’t have to paralyze you into prolonged inaction.

Job Loss

In my 20s, I worked for a company that seemed to be growing. The office was fully staffed and the plant was expanding. Then, suddenly, people were called into meetings and left those meetings with stern faces or eyes to the floor. By the end of the day, I, and half of the company’s employees had been terminated. The directive to downsize came from “corporate,” a faceless entity that knew nothing of the lives of the people associated with the names on a computer printout or the hardship job loss would bring.

Often our work is very much a part of our identity. The routine structures our days. The challenges cause us to think, problem-solve, innovate, and create. We develop friendships. With a job loss, self-esteem takes a hit. Was I not smart enough, valued enough, good enough? But you are more than the work you do, valuable and worthy. Change is never easy, but the next season, the next job, may prove even more fulfilling than the one you lost. Approach the redirection with anticipation rather than trepidation. Avoid comparisons and embrace new opportunities.

A Diagnosis

Any health scare or unexpected diagnosis is unsettling. Even some small change in your health can alter mobility, diet, mind-set, or routine. Often, fear is the little distractor that dances at the back of your mind, diverting attention, and causing you to resist a new normal. A diagnosis feels out of control and so we try to predict and plan in an attempt apply order to the situation. But try to take each day as it comes, not jumping to worst case scenarios, trusting God to walk beside you and guide you no matter where this unexpected path leads.

A Season of Darkness

All of us go through times in our lives when we are rocked by an event that leaves us shaken, perplexed, depressed, or angry. At times, we enter a season of darkness for which we can’t pinpoint the cause. Don’t allow pride or embarrassment to prevent you from getting help. Asking for and receiving help is not a sign of weakness, but of wisdom.

Although a season of darkness is discouraging and difficult, allow God to mold you and reveal himself to you more fully during this time. Trust you will not remain in this darkness forever. Look for light on the horizon, just as the sky brightens ahead of the sunrise. Morning is coming. A new season of refreshment and change is dawning. Watch for it. Wait for it. Rejoice when it comes and experience peace.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 MSG


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including:,,,,, Focus on the Family,,, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

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