The Walk of Grief

A few weeks ago while I was in Virginia, I got to do something I've been wanting to do ever since Drew died. There is a spiritual center in Virginia Beach called A.R.E. - full of studies and books about spirituality and just about every topic imaginable related to death and afterlife. They also have a labyrinth on the grounds outside. Which is what I was most excited about.

It's not the sort made of hedges or stone walls. It's not a maze you have to figure out. This is a flat path with only one way in and out. The intention is that winding your way into the center slowly brings your focus to the center of yourself. You walk inward, bringing with you all the distractions, insecurities, fears, etc of the outside world... slowly letting them all fall away as you make your way toward the center. Once you reach the center, you may sit there a while to be with the deepest part of yourself – without the distractions of everything else. And then you begin your return journey outward, back to the world, and bring with you the calm and any lessons you found at the center so that you may carry them back into your life.  

As I walked, I couldn't help but think of just how perfectly this walk mirrored my walk through grief these past three years...Screen_Shot_2015-06-21_at_8.47.41_AM.png

There is only one way to get to a different place with grief – and that is to walk through it. The first year for me was about walking inward... walking through all the pain and fear and agony and triggers that lie deep within myself. Walking deeper and deeper until I could find that center of calm within me. And doing this over and over and over again. It was never easy to strap on my boots and do that inner walk. Some days, the only way it happened was to cry endless tears until I exhausted myself into a heap of half-asleep calm. Or to scream at the top of my lungs until there was barely a breath left in me. As I look back, I am realizing, all of these were forms of walking within. All of them were ways of walking through the emotions to get to the calm at the center of my heart. 

The second year it seems the focus shifted, and I was spending much more time at the center of myself – in that calm, mindful space. A lot of the initial shock of his death had worn off by then, and I had done a lot of very deep grieving for a year already, and so coming to the center began to be easier I think.

This year feels different still. It feels like I am walking back out again... and bringing with me all the wisdom and gifts of new perspective that the inward journey has given me. All the things I have learned about coping and healing and feeling through the grief. Lessons I know that I'm supposed to take out into the world with me as I begin to re-enter it.

In the end, I think this is the most important lesson these three long and painful and terrifying years have taught me: My reason for having to endure the death of my fiance is so that I can better understand the pain of others, and so that I can bring whatever tools I have acquired to help them. I think that may just be the point of all this – for us to learn how to help each other better. It doesn't take away the pain or the empty space in my heart for him, but it does give me something I can DO with it that matters and honors him daily... which, in a way, keeps him always alive.  

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  • Rebecca Collins
    commented 2015-06-22 16:36:14 -0700
    “My reason for having to endure the death of my fiance is so that I can better understand the pain of others, and so that I can bring whatever tools I have acquired to help them.”
    This has been ringing true for me too… It can be a heavy realization, discovering some kind of ‘purpose’ in your pain. You are an incredible woman :)
  • Kelley Lynn
    commented 2015-06-22 10:15:05 -0700
    Love this. Its so funny – this is one of those “new me / old me” things for me. The old me would have totally made fun of something like this – a labyrinth. And Don would make fun of this too. Totally. But in a lighthearted way. I can just see us walking one together if he were alive and the NEW me wanted to try it . He would do it with me. He would stand next to me and walk with me through it, because he was the type of person that would do ANYTHING I wanted to try, he was right therewith me. But he would be mocking it and making jokes and making me laugh and saying “do what did you learn, Boo? Are you gonna make me do yoga now too?” But the old me would never have tried this or seen the beauty or the profoundness in it. But THIS me does. Honestly, meeting people like you and others has opened me up more to things like this. Unconventional things that I would never have even looked at before. And Don is chucking, but he istotally along for the ride. ps.I think theres a labyrinth in Toronto, right outside the Marriott where we stay, If Im remembering right . Youre gonna love it there.