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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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Path Through Grief

Your path through grief may be different than mine. I’m not talking about comparing how often anger erupts, what time of day depression tends to descend, or how long it took for the initial shock of death to wear off and we could feel our fingertips again.

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 was pleasurable 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 and focus on something else for a few hours or a day, while, in the back of your mind, grief percolates. Do not neglect to do this or go there, even if you don’t feel like it. You probably don’t feel like doing anything.

Pause whenever some thought or feeling shows up out of the blue. Listen for where it leads.

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

Hiking any long trail in the mountains is rugged and demands more endurance than I think I have, but I need the challenge. I want to be worn out by physical activity because I’ve been sitting at home for too long with grief. Nature makes a good hiking companion.

When I come across a side trail, I take it, even if I don’t know where it goes. It leads me through a new area of the forest, over a mountain, or down into a valley that nurtures a meadow of wildflowers. The path also leads me through my battered heart.

This morning a Jeffrey pine stands in front of me. I rub my hand over its bark, feeling its roughness, then leaning in 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 by, dip my hand into the cold of its snowmelt water, and feel the power of its surge. I wander into the meadow, sit in the wild grass, and look closely at the hairy-stalked milkweed and deep purple lupine.

My plan last night was to hike through the mountains today, but what do I actually feel like doing this morning? Do I really want to tackle a demanding hike, or sit by the river and read? Maybe I’d rather saunter aimlessly.

I will not deliberately think about grief this trip. I will not deliberately not think about grief. I will focus on nature and exist in this moment as fully as I can and let nature guide my thoughts. If grief shows up, I will not push it away.

No one here knows I am grieving, and I can tell them or not. I’m untethered and free to express whatever thoughts I have this morning. In the next hour I may change my mind and contradict myself. So be it. I will be enigmatic. 

I will find people who are thoughtful, and we will share food and drink. We will exchange stories that make us laugh, strengthen the heart, and give us courage. And if they are grieving, we will listen and comfort each other as a coyote trots past with a knowing grin.

I listen to nature, to the breeze humming through the branches of the Sugar pines, the opinionated chatter of blue jays, the haunting cawing of ravens, and the scuffling of chipmunks through the leaves looking for acorns.

I lean back against a mountain, and lose myself in the wonder.


  1. It was a beautiful day here in Central New York. I'd intended to go hiking with my inherited dog. But early in the day, before breakfast, I sat down to produce a collage in Photoshop. And suddenly it was past dinnertime. So I guess I found my method of escape. Tomorrow I WILL go hiking with the dog.