Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Path Through Grief

Your path through grief may be different than mine. Here I’m not talking about comparing how often anger erupts, when we encountered depression, or how long it took for the initial shock of death to wear off.


I’m talking about where you go to deal with your emotions. Where is your place of refuge, your place of renewal where you feel comforted, accepted, and can work your way through grief? This is likely to be a place or an activity that brought you pleasure before death struck. Now it becomes therapeutic.

For one person it may be carpentry or gardening, for another it may be working with horses. Maybe it’s going to the movies, the ocean, or the golf course. Whatever it is, this is where you can step back, focus on something else for a time, while in the back of your mind you are working your way through grief.

Whatever it is, pause when some thought or feeling shows up out of the blue. Listen for where it is leading.

My path was in Yosemite, and the following are notes from one of my trips. I hope you find parallels with your own journey.

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Hiking any long trail in the mountains is rugged and demands more endurance than I think I have, but I want the challenge to see if I measure up. I need to be worn out by physical activity because I’ve been sitting at home for too long with grief, and nature is comforting.

This morning a Jeffrey pine stands in front of me. I rub my hand over the bark, feel its roughness, and lean close to see how it smells. I can never remember if it’s the Jeffrey or the Ponderosa that smells like vanilla. Ah, it’s the Jeffrey.

I listen to the Merced River flowing nearby, dip my hand into the cold of its snowmelt water, and feel the power of its surge. I wander into the meadow, sit on the ground, and look closely at its plants, at the hairy-stalked milkweed, the long stemmed grasses, and the glorious purple lupine.

My intention last night was to hike into the mountains. But what do I feel like doing this morning? Do I really want to tackle a demanding hike, or would I rather sit by the river and read, or maybe saunter aimlessly?

I will not deliberately think about grief, nor use the hours to organize my future. I will focus on nature and exist in this moment as fully as I can and see what happens.

No one here knows who I am or what I’m struggling with, and I can tell them or not. I’m untethered from my past, and free to express whatever thoughts and feelings I have this morning. In the next hour I may uncover deeper feelings and contradict myself. So be it. I will be enigmatic. I will find people I like, and we will share food and drink, and exchange stories that make us laugh and give us courage.

I will listen to nature, to the breezes humming through the branches of the Sugar pines, the opinionated chatter of blue jays, the haunting caws of ravens, and the scuffling of chipmunks through the leaves.

I will lean against a mountain, take in the view, and lose myself in wonder.

When I come across a side trail, I will take it, even if I don’t know where it goes. It will lead me through a new part of the forest, over the mountain, and down into the valley with the shadows of death. The path also leads me through my battered heart.

The path is my way and my refuge. I shall not want.

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