(I wrote this awhile ago – it’s not summer now but it was then!)
Recently I did a three dale walk – 8 miles going north along the River Dove, passing through Dove Dale and its dramatic limestone peaks and caves, stopping at Milldale for a cup of tea, then through the winding green valley of Wolfscote Dale, and finally through the meandering wooded Beresford Dale, until I reached the Peak District village of Hartington.
It was an afternoon walk, glorious sunshine for most of the day, but not too hot, and even the occasional light sprinkle of rain.
Dove Dale is a busy and popular walk; Wolfscote and Beresford less well known, and I saw barely a handful of people in the latter two-thirds of my walk.
The Peak District lives up to its name – it’s full of peaks. According to my OS map, I actually climbed a total of 500 metres, although it didn’t feel like it, as it was mostly gentle and gradual.
Some clear rivers, some quite murky
And all along the way flowed the River Dove. Not a raging torrent, but a gentle, steady river, bubbling and gurgling as it made its way through the banks, over the stones, meandering and sparkling. There were a couple of fly fishermen having a go at catching the trout, and a few heron attempting the same.
The river in its lower reaches was so calm and clear to be fully transparent, every pebble on the river bottom visible. Further up the river, though, perhaps due to a bit of rain or the steepness of the terrain, the water was stirred up and you couldn’t see much through it at all. It was murky; not actually dirty, but the ground was stirred up.
Can’t see the way through.
Things became murky.
And that’s what loss in our lives does to us.
Bereavement stirs up the waters of our lives, and things can become murky.
Can’t see the way through.
There can be so much confusion when we’re grieving.
It’s not a constant. Sometimes things do get a bit calmer and we can see our way.
But it’s not as though everything in life stands still when we’re grieving. No, things keep on happening. The waters keep getting stirred.
Maybe it’s an insensitive comment from a friend; maybe it’s the realisation of certain key dates or the reminder of some sad memories. Maybe it’s a rock dropping into the river, making things even more difficult, as we have to deal with some other issue – a health problem, a financial issue, a work situation. Maybe it’s another bereavement.
We wish that it wasn’t like this. We wish that this scripture was true of us: “He leads me beside peaceful streams.” (Psalm 23:2)
But life right now may not seem peaceful at all.
Everything is moving and changing
Your grief may be a muddy river at this time, but here is another thought that might perhaps bring you some hope:
Rivers are never usually still. Things keep flowing; they don’t stay the same. If you’re having a difficult time at this moment, wait a bit, and who knows how it might change. Eventually, hopefully, you will reach a calmer time.
And until then, remember that you don’t have to navigate the waters alone. You may have friends or family who want to support you; and if not – or in addition – many others are also grieving and there is a lot to be said for mutual support. You might like to join a forum or group for those who are grieving similar losses (some ideas here).
If you’re a person of faith, then you may find comfort in this thought:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (Psalm 43:2)
May your stormy waters become calmer soon.