I remember the nights I wept. I sat alone on my couch launched my inside screams into the air. I wondered how I could go on.
It is the universal question asked those who lose someone they love.
“How can I go on?”
Maybe that’s the question you are asking today.
“How can I go on?”
Despite the death of our parent, our spouse or a sibling, there’s a mountain in front of us called life. How do we do it without him? How do we do it without her?
I’ll offer you four 1st steps to take, but first I want to tell you, I’ve been there.
I was still asking that question five years after my mother’s death and eight years after my dad’s death. I’d taken a lot of steps to rebuild my life by then, but I still was coloring in, sort of speak, the picture.
How was I going to get to the top of that mountain? How was I going to get to a place where my first thoughts weren’t about the fact my parents were gone, and I’d never see them again on this Earth? They were out of reach. How could I go on?
This past weekend, my husband and I climbed approximately 4,800 feet to the summit of Chimney Tops, one of the most strenuous hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. My hubby loves climbing up mountains. He’s hiked up mountains in the West, so Chimney Tops was a cinch. I, on the other hand, have only climbed one mountain, Stone Mountain in Atlanta.
Its peak is 1,686 feet. I got up it twice that day in 2017, but I haven’t hiked up a mountain since knee surgery last year. And I’ve been battling a hamstring issue this year. Would I be able to get up to Chimney Tops?
“Pace yourself,” my husband reminded me several times when I was out of breath.
Hours later, he pointed out the mountain chain at a lookout spot.
“You climbed that,” Richard said.
Tourists clamored for a good photo of the wall of mountain facing us.
“I know,” I said, “but I still can’t believe it.”
I couldn’t believe it because I was visually taking in the whole thing. The whole darn mountain. In the woods, I had simply concentrated on the steps I could see.
“You know,” I told my husband, “this whole mountain climbing thing is like life. If you take it a step at a time, if you pace yourself, you can accomplish more than you believed possible.”
Grief is like that, too. We cannot imagine our crushed lives feeling whole again.
But we can sit and cry. And then wipe our tears. And go to bed. And then get up. Eat a bit of food. Go to work. Come home and cry. Call a friend. Go to bed.
Eat breakfast. Journal. Sift through mementos. Cry. Smile when a friend tells us a funny story. And somehow, day by day, month by month, year by year, we discover our spirits are higher than we could have imagined a while back.
The details will look different for each of us, but we all climb the mountain the same way. Step by step.
You can do this. Step by step.
Here are 4 first steps to take:
- Take care of yourself. Grief is an all-body experience. Sleep if you can. Eat nourishing foods. Go for a walk. Pray.
- Articulate your emotions. Talk to a friend who knows how to listen. Write down what you are feeling in a journal or a letter.
- Don’t allow yourself nor others to brush away your emotions. Your dear one is absent. Pain is justified. Give your emotions the space they need.
- Recognize grief pays no attention to the calendar. Processing intense emotions takes time. Each individual is different, but pain lessens in time. We will still grieve, but we also will adapt.
I want to hear about your first step. Share it with me in the comments section. What about your next step?
Copyright © 2020 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com