“Since the death of your loved one, you’ve started a journey. It’s not a trip you planned, but it’s a trip you must take.”

Three and a half years, I’ve been on this journey and two weeks ago, I did the final big thing—selling our house and buying my house. From our to my. That characterizes the journey.

So how fitting when unpacking boxes in my new house, I pulled out the purple GriefShare workbook, “Your Journey from Mourning to Joy.” I followed the distraction and flipped through the chapters and read answers I had written down during two sessions of grief recovery support group exercises. There it was written on page 14.

“Your efforts to heal shape your journey. Complete the five tasks of grief.” In black-ink cursive I wrote:

1. Accept that your loved one has died; he is not returning.

2. Give release to all emotions.

3. Store memories.

4. Separate your own identity.

5. Reinvest in life.

I’ve done it. I’ve completed the five tasks of grief. The first three were never a problem for me. It’s the last two. Emotionally, I just didn’t want to give up my old life. I wasn’t ready, I will never be ready. I just had to do it, to make a decision with my head and follow through.

This is not to say that when I lay claim to this purple book and open it and see my handwriting on the pages, my emotions don’t plunge back to that time, because they do shoot straight back to that time when my bones were in agony, when I had “a tingling that rolled down from the backs of my arms, leaving me weak all over, and legs that didn’t want to step forward.” When my heart pounded and I had to get the grief out, and so even late at night I’d go outside and run and weep and let my warm tears mix with a cold falling rain.

There’s no way around grief. There’s no way it can’t absorb you. You have to walk through this valley, only it’s not a valley, I don’t care what the Bible says, it’s a trench, a trench that you stand in and the top edges are higher than your head and the dirt walls touch your arms and threaten to tighten on you like a vise. You don’t get out of this without hard effort, without clawing the dirt walls and getting mud under your fingernails and grunting and groaning and yelling out and pulling yourself up bit by bit—pulling and climbing and sliding back some—until you reach the top and then clinging onto grass and weeds and tugging some more and watching and waiting for those fragile stalks to give way and drop you down again because you don’t know if you can make it out. But you keep working at it and one day you realize you are there.

And all that time of chipping away at this alone—yes, alone, because when it comes down to it, you were alone in this, and it had to be that way—you have become a new and different person.

Page 38: “Discover your new identity.” My quick cursive scrawl: “Grief can positively re-orient my identity. The other person died; I didn’t.”


3 Comments on “Destinations”

  1. Beautiful. Thanks. Bravo for your journey!!

  2. Judith says:

    Kathy, this is so totally true and accurate for the grief process. You write it so honestly and beautifully. Bravo!

  3. Thank you for sharing this personal experience. You are a brave woman. I hope I act with such courage when my days of grief come.

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