Which way? Decision-making & grief. (The Way Part 5)

One of my biggest challenges when I go on one of my adventurous country rambles is finding the way. Some paths or trails are well sign-posted but not always. There is often an amount of map-reading involved, but even with maps and a compass, and an excellent map app & GPS on my smartphone, if it is possible to go the wrong way, I seem to manage it. Some of my longest walks would never have been quite so long except for the wrong paths I took.

So if I am in the mood for a more relaxing walk, I’ll go back somewhere I know very well, or one that has a distinct path, or I will walk alongside a canal which surely gives no options for lost paths.

I’ve been reading recently about the Way Francigena, another long-distance pilgrimage route, this time from Canterbury to Rome. It seems there are more than one routes to take, and in places there are contradictory signs. Go this way – Go this way

Which way?

When we’re in the midst of grief, lots of people put up road signs trying to be helpful, but often the directions are contradictory.

“Go back to work”, says one. “Shouldn’t you take a bit longer off work?” says another.

“Have you thought about moving?” says one. “Your home is so full of memories, surely you don’t want to move away” says another.

And it’s not just people. There is just so much advice out there about grief. There are books, there are websites, there are blogs (this one included!). There are colouring books and therapy suggestions. Google “grief recovery” or look up “grief” on Pinterest and see just how much. Masses. A lot of it very good, for sure; some of it you may find helpful, some not.

So how do you find your way through it all?

Going back to my walking experiences, this is what works for me. I look at the signs / my map / my phone and go on for a bit. Sometimes it feels right; sometimes it doesn’t. So I recheck the directions. And then I make a decision. Yes, maybe this route doesn’t look exactly right, but I would enjoy this view of the hills, so I’ll go this way. No, I don’t want to go straight up over that steep hill. I’ll find another way to go.

And in grief, you have to find your own path. Yes, listen to people’s advice, listen to the ‘grief professionals’. But then choose for yourself. It is your life, your footsteps.

One of the terrible things about the death of a loved one is the loss of control.  We could not control what happened; we could not prevent their dying.

Sometimes even after our loved one has died, we are still prevented from taking control. We might be in such a state we can’t take care of ourselves, or it may be the circumstances. If our loved one’s death was sudden and unexplained, there might be an inquest. If they died in a traffic incident or were victims of crime, there will be a trial. All of this could delay the funeral. We have no choice in the matter.

Exerting some control now in our life is really important if we’re going to get back up on our feet. It could start with small things but gradually there are bigger decisions to make. Do we go back to work? Do we change job? Do we move away? Do we redecorate?

In all of this, we may be recipients of well-meaning advice, good and bad. But what we do with that advice is up to us.

Choosing your path – making decisions – is not easy, particularly if we feel we failed in some way up until now. But there is one thing we have no choice about. To choose, we must. 


By Christina Rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
   Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
   From morn to night, my friend.


But is there for the night a resting-place?
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
   You cannot miss that inn.


Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
   Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
   They will not keep you standing at that door.


Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
   Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
   Yea, beds for all who come.

Path through a Scottish forest

Read more

Walking the Way – Part 1

Coping with grief, one step at a time. (Walking the Way – Part 2)

The bereaved decision-maker: Getting ready for “Total Knee Replacement”

2 thoughts on “Which way? Decision-making & grief. (The Way Part 5)

  1. Pingback: Lack of agency: lockdowns and loss | A Valley Journal

  2. Pingback: Grief is a type of journey – but it’s no walk in the park (Site Guide No. 5) | A Valley Journal

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