Grief is often described as a journey – how poetic, right? Some days, we wonder why our grief can’t just be as easy as taking a step outside to clear our heads and “get back on the horse”. Remember that grief isn’tjustabout becoming resilient in the face of loss and quickly finding a new normal, as though we are on a scavenger hunt. Grief is about growing through our loss experiences and continually building our “new normal”.
I feel as though many inspirational quotes can really romanticize grief as a journey by talking about it from the point of what happens when you “get to the top”. Some days, we need inspiration like that. We need to know there’s a “view” to look forward to.
What I will say is that when we talk about grief as a journey, we don’t justthink about those “Ohhhh, wow!” moments. We are also talking about the moments when you may feel lost and confused. Grief doesn’t have steps for us to complete or a map for us to follow, so of course we may get a bit lost now and then!
How about when you take a trail you thought would get you to one place, but you really just end up where you’ve already been? These may be the times that grief kind of sneaks up on you and you think to yourself, “Well, I didn’t know this was happening today … ok”. It’s also about the moments where you are tired, dirty, hungry, and want a break. I like to call this grief brain. When things seem to be a bit too much and daily life can tire us out. This is when we really need to focus on self-care. These are some of the hard truths we don’t necessarily like to talk about, because they aren’t pretty, and they may not feel like very hopeful moments.
But what happens when we don’t talk about them? All we see are people’s highlight reels of how wonderfully they are coping and growing, without even trying? That doesn’t seem right. We need to know that not every step of the way is going to be easy. Sometimes we may have to struggle, stop to figure out what trail to take next, wait out the storms. We need to talk about the tough stuff, so we can fully appreciate all the hard work we are doing to grow through these challenges.
But that’s not all that we find on our journeys. Sometimes we find another person walking their own path and we chat for a while. These people can become our friends, our supports, and our companions. Maybe we hike with them and know that even though we are walking the same way, we are both different people and need to do what’s best for us on the trail. Remember that everyone’s journeys look different and there is no right or wrong way to trek through yours.
Now let’s talk about those moments where we find a view that we want to sit down and take in. Maybe it’s a memory or an accomplishment we want to savor for a few moments. Embrace these when you find them – these are very special moments. These are awesome rest stops on the journey, but they are not our destination.
There is no destination. Before we take that as a discouraging comment, think about the pressure that can be lifted from the expectation of “reaching the end” or “finishing your journey”. We will always be on this journey, because isn’t that what life is? So, don’t put a time limit or other expectations on it; grief wasn’t meant to be put in a box off to the side. Give your grief a chance to grow and change with you. Some days it will feel like a big rock in your pack, and other days it might just be a small beautiful stone you keep in your pocket. It’s a part of you. It’s a part of your journey. We don’t get over it, but we can keep Actively Moving Forward in our grief journey.
Written by Kiri Meyer, MS, LPC, NCC
Director of Programming for Actively Moving Forward® (AMF), a HealGrief program