Finding the stillness in grief

Longterm visitors to this blog will know that I love to walk. Walking in countryside or along the coast brings is just about my favourite activity.

I tend to set myself goals for walking that push me a bit harder than I am able… so much so that finding my way and/or putting one step in front of the other – or both – can take up a lot of my attention. Perhaps that focus on the moment is one reason I find walking so therapeutic.

It is also the time when my thoughts crystallise. It is rare that I will walk without a way of making notes of what comes to mind. I can’t say how many projects or articles have first taken shape in the quiet of a solitary walk. 

And of course I commune and chat to my children on the way. That’s a precious part of my walking.

Plus I like to take photos.

All quite busy really. It can end up being too busy, this forward march of progress literally and figuratively.

The other day though I was feeling particularly tired, so I stopped more often than usual, taking advantage of a gap in the trees to look at the views, or resting on a convenient bench. And during those stops I realised just how many birds were twittering away, hidden in the beautiful autumn foliage. I was struck by the range of bird song from near and far. The longer I sat still and listened, the more I could hear. These were sounds I had missed while I kept walking, and it seemed a good idea to keep still and keep listening.

Listening in the stillness was something I had done earlier that day, sitting at Catherine’s grave, marking 6 1/2 years since she had left, six years exactly since the inquest that followed her death by suicide. I had been busy for awhile, tidying things up, and then I sat. And in that stillness, I was struck by some thoughts about Catherine that were like new realisations, and they were comforting. I eventually walked away more comforted than when I had arrived.

It is not always easy to find that stillness of mind. I think when we are in the throes of raw grief our minds race and it is more likely we find ourselves bewildered and confused. At least that has been my experience. The clarity that can come from stillness may not be accessible to us in those early months and years. 

Being able to be still is a gift that can bring us closer to our loved ones, and if we are on a walk of faith, it can bring us a special peace. 

If this is something you can’t yet do on your own grief journey, have patience with yourself. The turmoil of early grief does eventually give way to more manageable feelings. It is not a steady line of course; neither turmoil nor peace are permanent, but progressing in our valley journeys hopefully means that in time our moments of peace will outweigh the moments of turmoil. And when we can find them, those moments of stillness are to be treasured.

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