At your own speed, in your own time (Grieving creatively #7)

Our recent Living with Loss pilgrimage walk (completed successfully – more detailed story coming soon) provided abundant illustrations of the journey of grief.

Walking as a group with an age range of 35 years (42 to 76), as well as a range of health limitations and abilities, there was also a range of walking speeds. We walked somewhat like a concertina – spreading out over the route, then the front walkers waiting until everyone caught up, and then walking on, spreading out once more, and so on.

Fast walkers. Slower walkers. Flower-pickers. Photograph takers. Talkers (a lot of those!). Walking in solitude. We each walked our own walk, in our own way, at our own speed. Stopping to enjoy the views. Plodding onwards.

We were moving forwards, even with the pauses and snack breaks. We were moving forwards, but at our own pace.

Take life at your own speed

When we are bereaved, other people often have opinions about the speed at which our life should now progress. These opinions might be voiced explicitly:

“About time to go back to work, don’t you think?”

“Haven’t you cleared out her room yet?”

“You’ll feel better after a holiday. It’s time.”

“It’s been a year already…”

…Or there may be quieter, less blatant but nevertheless clear indications that they think we should be “moving on by now”. This type of (usually) well-meaning advice doesn’t really take into account that we can only proceed at the speed that is right for us.

It is important to go at your own speed in your grief journey, and not feel pressured by others. Encouragement is a different thing, but pressure doesn’t help.

There is no race to win. There is only a life to live – a life that is now different. Perhaps your life is much more difficult since your loved one died. Perhaps other things happening in your life – lack of support, health issues, family disagreements, loneliness, money worries, work pressures – are making it even harder to cope with the core reason for your grief – the death of your loved one.

Grieving creatively means taking the time you personally need to adjust and live with your loss. There is no wrong or right way to grieve. There is no rule about how soon or how long it should take to dispose of a loved one’s belongings, go back to work (finances permitting!), go on holiday, find a new partner, clean up the house, move house, or anything else at all. There should be no external timekeeper.

Grieving creatively also means recognising your own abilities and limitations, and that these might change as time passes. Some days you might be energised; others might be more of a hard slog. When you’re energised, be active. When it’s a hard slog, be kind to yourself and take it easier.

Simply speaking: Try to do what feels right to you today. Take the steps you want to take, at the speed you want to take them.

A pilgrim poem that seems quite appropriate for this theme

My journey is always just beginning,
a fresh new day,
On an old, old path.
That’s the blessing,
that’s where the hope blossoms.
However much I wandered yesterday
I can start again tomorrow,
And when all my tomorrows are used up,
I’ll still have travelled.
It’s the journey that counts,
not the arriving.
(Mary Fleeson)

Adjust to your grief at your own speed
Living your life at your own speed can mean stopping to smell the flowers. (Beautiful wildflowers from our walk)

More articles on “grieving creatively”

#6: Give yourself a win

#5: The art of grief

#4: Something new with your hands

#3: Rituals help hold grief in a safe space

#2: Doing nothing at all

#1: Smells that remind, scents that comfort

There is no race to win. There is only a life to live – a life that is now different. Try to do what feels right to you today. Take the steps you want to take, at the speed you want to take them.

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