Losing your way and grief have a lot in common. Both are about inhabiting the space of not-knowing.
It was a few weeks ago that a women’s networking group I belong to decided to hike in a nearby forest preserve.
It was a gorgeous seventies day, sunshine and breeze in perfect balance.
My sacred intention for this hike was a meditative and restorative experience. I wanted to be companioned by silence. Some of the women had other ideas. So about three minutes into the walk, I found myself straying away from the Chatty Cathys.
I walked on, breathing in birdsong and smelling the scents of serenity. With every step I took, the women’s voices faded a little further away and I found myself on the trail all alone.
I continued walking along a straight path for a long time…just in case I needed to retrace my steps back to the parking lot from where we began this excursion. My skin was in love with the sun and my senses welled up in gratitude for the perfect day. The odd jogger crossed my path and we nodded at each other.
Soon, the trail started to meander and I kept walking, following the path that called to me. This is probably a good place to let you in on a fact about me. I’m someone who is entirely capable of getting lost on the five-minute walk from my home to the nearest Jewel-Osco.
Here I was, braving the forest preserve trails. Soon, everything began to look the same. Wilderness everywhere and the same muddy path winding through it. My usual navigational aids — a Panera Bread, street names, familiar landmarks — couldn’t come to my rescue here.
So I called on my cosmic GPS. Please tell me if I should turn left or right here. Then I’d watch for sensations in my gut and follow through. When I came to a fork in the path, I checked in and followed the path that seemed to say This way, please trusting that I was being guided.
At one point I stopped and asked a woman if I was moving in the right direction: toward the parking lot instead of away from it. We had a nice conversation, just two random strangers surrounded by beautiful foliage. Turned out she had a couple of questions to which I had the answers. It was a lovely moment of ask-receive-give.
I talked my mantras out loud. I know I’m being guided. I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not here trying to figure this thing out all by myself.
I paid attention to traffic sounds. The forest preserve was just off a busy intersection, so I knew I was headed in the right direction when I heard cars and trucks whizzing in the distance.
Sure enough, I turned a corner and suddenly knew where I was. I spotted my Mini in the far distance and knew the lot was right there.
Reflecting on this experience a few days later, it hit me. There are parallels between my journey and the journey every griever takes.
- The landscape of loss is wild with no clearly marked trails. You wander and meander and get lost and take a pit stop and recalibrate.
- You must keep moving to make something happen. If you become frozen in your grief experience, you get stuck. You find yourself at the fork and make no decision about which path to take. Deciding to move in any one direction is necessary.
- You must trust the journey. Even if you don’t know where you’re going and how long it will take to get there, it helps to know that you’re being guided. Who or what you’re guided by depends on your belief system and there are no wrong answers. Just trusting will take you home.
- Your gut is a great navigational guide. It is where your intuition lives. And your intuition is programmed to give you the latest information on how you must act. It’s like a mobile device with the latest updates. It gets you where you need to go, if you trust it.
- Ask and receive. It doesn’t hurt to say I’m lost and need some help. Asking isn’t inadequacy. It’s recognizing that you don’t have all the answers all of the time. You can’t do it all by yourself. It’s okay to receive help and then go find someone you can help.
Pause for a moment. Reflect on your journey. Where do you need to trust yourself more? How can you ask for help? Do you believe there’s a Power that’s guiding your life?