A few weeks ago, the Hope Mobile (our 38-foot motor home that we live in full-time) was parked at a campground in a beautiful valley, surrounded by small mountains. As I would go walking in the mornings, a few of those times I found myself following a trail that took me up one of those mountains.
One morning I realized how my climb up the mountain paralleled several things in my grief journey after my oldest daughter, Becca, died. Here are five of those things.
- It’s a lot of work climbing up those mountains. And when you get to the top, it’s wonderful, but you don’t get to stay there. You must work your way back down.
The earlier we are in our grief journey, the harder the climb is and the less time we stay at the top. We find ourselves almost immediately tumbling back down the mountainside, back into the valley. With anything in life, mountaintop experiences are great, even exhilarating. But we don’t get to stay there. It is in the valley where most maturing happens and life-lessons are learned, including how much we need to depend on God to be our guide though this life.
- What kept me moving forward and continuing to go up the mountain was not being able to see the full path in front of me. I freely admit I would not have kept going if I could have seen the full path all the way to the top. I kept thinking, “I’ll just go up to that point where it curves, and I’ll probably be at the top.” And when I would turn that corner, there would be more path and I would think again, “Okay, let me get to that point up there,” and I would get there and find more path.
It’s a good thing we can’t see the full path of our lives ahead of time. We can only take a little bit at a time. But that doesn’t mean every corner we turn is bad, it is just unknown what lies ahead. If we keep going, based on what we can see, and not worry about what we can’t see, we will eventually make it all the way.
- The last mountain I climbed was taking longer than I thought it would. I was getting quite tired and I started hoping I would meet up with the path I was on the day before, which would be a quicker way back down. As I kept going forward, looking for that other path, I eventually found myself at the very top of this new mountain. As I looked to my right, I was shocked to see that waaaayyyy down below me was the top of the mountain where I had stood the day before. I had no idea that I was climbing that much higher!
As we keep walking on this journey, one step at a time (sometimes one breath at a time) we will one day suddenly discover that we are doing better than we ever thought we could or would. At the time though, it feels like we can’t go on and things will never get better.
- Quite often I was paying so much attention to the path and my steps, that I was missing the view, so sometimes I would stop and look out, to enjoy what was around me.
Quite often we are so consumed by our grief (and rightly so, especially those first few weeks and months) that we don’t see what is going on around us. There are good things all around us; things we can still be thankful for. Sometimes we need to force ourselves to put our grief on pause to look for those things.
- I also used those times of looking around at the view to get rested before continuing.
Grief is a lot of hard work! It can take everything we have just to be in survival mode. It’s okay to rest when you are weary, when triggers hit hard, and you don’t have any energy to do even the simplest things like take a shower or put a frozen pizza in the oven.
And if you are someone who has faced the death of your child, it is one of the worst traumas a person can go through on this earth. (You will find that experts support this, saying we are going through what is called “traumatic grief” and that five years and less is considered fresh grief for a parent who has lost a child.) You have been through a trauma and can possibly even be dealing with PTSD.
Rest is not only okay, it is what you need, in every area, physically, emotionally, and yes, even spiritually in some ways.
There is one last comparison I would like to share with you, which might possibly be the most important one.
I can show you lots of pictures I took while climbing these mountains. I can tell you some of the things God was speaking to me, but it was my personal climb. Even if you had been with me, we would have seen things through our own eyes and our own thoughts.
In other words, we can be on the same path together, and yet we will be on our own personal separate climb. I would only be able to do so much to pull you into what I was seeing and how I was feeling. I could point something out to you, but you would be seeing it through your own lens of life. You would be having your own experience. It would be with me, and yet separate from me. Some of our climb would be the same experience, and some of it would be very different.
We are each on our own grief journey. Even if you are like me and have lost a child from this earth, there is no way I know how you feel. I know how I felt after my daughter died. I know the suffocating darkness I experienced. I know how I would forget to breath and have to consciously tell myself to take a breath. I know how I wanted to stop hurting so bad and how the darkness lasted for so much longer than I thought it should.
I know how I didn’t want to live, which didn’t make sense because I knew in my head I had so much still to live for. (I had a loving husband, four other children and two grandchildren at the time – one of those being the 9-year-old daughter of my daughter who had died). None of that mattered. My heart wanted to be with my daughter who was now gone from this earth, and I knew I couldn’t stay here if the rest of my life was going to be this painful. (I wasn’t suicidal, I just didn’t want to live any more and begged God to take me out of here!)
You see, we each have many of the same grief experiences, but it is all though our own personal journey of our personal relationship with the one who died. I know how I felt, but that doesn’t mean I know how you feel, even if you lost a daughter the same way I lost my daughter, through heart damage caused by chemotherapy.
I want to encourage you to keep climbing. If you started and found yourself back down in the valley, go again after you are rested. And even though we each have our own experience, please know that if you are a bereaved parent, we are here at GPS Hope (Grieving Parents Sharing Hope), walking with you every step of the way.
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Expressions of Hope is written by author, speaker and singer Laura Diehl. She and her husband, Dave, are the founders of Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). Dave and Laura travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, including being invited to hold one-day GPS Hope & Healing conferences.
If you would like more information about Laura as a speaker for your next event or want more information on hosting a GPS Hope & Healing conference, click here.
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