Thoughts on managing a lifelong journey of love and grief, and links to further readings
(Site Guide No. 5)
Grief is the price we pay for love…
The journey of grief – adjusting to life without the presence of someone – or more than one person – who means a lot to us – is not a journey we embark on willingly.
We don’t really have a choice in the matter. If we love someone, and they are permanently absent, we are going to miss them. We’ll walk through life missing them. That’s the journey of grief.
There is no defined ending to this journey. It’s lifelong, although fortunately that doesn’t mean that the difficulty of the journey remains constant.
The Valley Journey
Valleys are long and deep and wide but not every acre of the valley is equally thick or equally dark.” (C.S. Lewis)
The journey of grief is often pictured as taking us through a valley.
What do you find in a valley? Areas of shade, areas of sunshine. Rocky obstacles, smoother patches. Valleys are rarely completely flat. The path rises and falls, sometimes close to the river, sometimes further away. Some valleys are dry, with no rivers running through.
That quote from C.S. Lewis on the changing aspect of a valley is helpful in our grief journey. It’s not always quite as it is today.
One step at a time
When we think of grief as a journey, we get a really great clue about how to survive it: by taking one step at a time.
It’s the long distance walker’s theme. One step after the other.
I discovered recently when walking up steep hills, which I find quite difficult, that it was easier if I got myself into a rhythm by counting each step. 1 step, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then countdown 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Pause, catch breath. Resume count – if it’s not too steep, increase numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Countdown 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. And so on.
“And so on.” That’s grief. It’s “so on.” We carry on. Sometimes we have better days or periods of time and at other times we struggle more. If we can just hold onto hope that we won’t always feel that bad, then it gives us strength to do the “so on-ing”.
Walking the Way – The Journey of Grief
MORE TO READ (LINKS TO ARTICLES)
“The Way” often refers to the popular network of “Camino” pilgrimage routes in Spain that lead to the Cathedral of St James in Santiago, but this series of posts is about much more than that.
- An introduction to the “Camino” and a review of the film “The Way” by Martin Sheen.
- One step at a time is the way to walk 100 kms, 500 kms, or a lifetime of grief. “It doesn’t matter where we are on our journey or the route that life has taken us. No matter how exhausted we are, however much pain we are enduring, however lonely or however much we’re seeking peace – no matter our condition – the way to live with loss is to keep going. Step after step. One step at a time.”
- The inspirational story of “Phil’s Camino” – Phil being someone who couldn’t go to Spain to do the walk he desired – and some thoughts about ‘virtual remembrance”
- A walk in Staffordshire around Rudyard Lake, and some thoughts on the importance of expressing our grief, and not letting ourselves get ‘blocked’.
- The importance of – but difficulties with – making decisions when you’re grieving.
- Our uniqueness as individuals – and my story of a short pilgrimage in Cornwall to St Michael’s Mount
- A river walk in Derbyshire. Reflecting on the value of our loved ones. No matter how long or short their life (although of course we wish it had been longer), there were beautiful times. They were loved and they loved.
- A walk along the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire. We might have justifiable worries about the path ahead but it may not turn out as bad as we anticipate.
- A walk in the Lake District. However much we may sympathise with others, we don’t see life through their eyes, and just as truly, nobody should try to interpret our life through their own. We each have to walk in our shoes and find our own path.
- Another walk in Derbyshire, this time through Dovedale, Beresford and Wolfscote Dales. Your grief may be a muddy river, with so much unclear, and so many emotions stirred. But take hope, because rivers are always in motion. What is today might not be tomorrow.
- Living in the present might be the only way to cope with the feelings of pessimism that often overshadow us in our grief. Photos and story of a walk on the Dane Valley Way.
- Getting through today is how we get through grief. There are no defined stages on our journey.