"Grief is not a train track toward acceptance. Instead, it is more of a 'getting lost in the woods.'"
~ Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD
I am no stranger to grief. I have walked the path of grief alone and as a companion of family members and friends many times in my 78 years. I have grieved openly over the assassinations of my youth and the shootings too common these past few years. I am no stranger to grief.
So I thought I was prepared for John's death. I was naive enough to think I was "ready". Moreover, I was more concerned that I would be relieved rather than bereaved. I wasn't - either ready or relieved. I was shocked, that the pain and fear and regret were so crippling; also shocked that I was shocked.
It has been 12 weeks now, 12 weeks today, and the initial shock waves after subsided. I have put my feet forward into the woods, deliberately, albeit with no small measure of anxiety and trepidation. It is helping to think of this as a journey on an unchartered path through a dense forest. This metaphor helps me when I'm going along, seemingly upright and grief descends like an unexpected branch that smacks me in the chest or an unseen root sending me tumbling face forward to the ground. It helps when is a ray of sunshine breaks through the canopy of grief and for a moment I feel guilty that I feel OK.
I'm pretty sure not everyone thinks in metaphors nor finds solace in them, but this one works for me. Grief as a path, an unchartered path through a dark forest. A path that one has to create slowly, carefully, a step at a time. Sometimes moving in the wrong direction, sometimes stumbling, sometimes frightened and disillusioned, but eventually finding the clearing.
I remind myself that I am no stranger to grief. I may not have been lost in so vast, so dark a forest before, but I have made it through a miscarriage, a divorce, the loss and betrayal of friends, my own cancer - I will survive. Someday, I may even thrive again.