Sometimes You’ve Gotta Fake Joy To Get To The Real Thing


This was me 4 years ago, faking joy, 420 feet above the Skokomish River on the High Steel Bridge in my home state of Washington.

This truss arch bridge is one of the twenty highest bridges in the United States and was previously used as a railway bridge to haul timber. Now it exists as more of a ghost town bridge that caters to the occasional foot traveler.

My fiance and soon to be new husband, planned this little excursion. He shared my enthusiasm for the outdoors, and every so often succeeded in talking me into going on an adventure that was a bit more…wondrous, than our usual nature jaunts.

As I opened the car door on arrival and took a 360 look around, it seemed pleasant enough. It’s hard to be disappointed by nature when you live in the Pacific Northwest.

As we walked towards the bridge, my fiance said that we needed to be careful while on the bridge because it was a tad shaky – something people had talked about in a forum online. If a car happened to begin crossing the bridge, we needed to hang on tight to the railing lest we accidentally Peter Pan over the edge.

Say what?

With that horrifying warning, I manufactured a huge smile as I looked at my fiance and took a step onto the bridge. I desperately wanted to turn back to the car but this handsome man had driven me an hour around Puget Sound and through miles of forest to show me this bridge. I wanted to show him I was up for it.

The bridge was sturdy enough and the views – just WOW.

But as beautiful and seemingly safe-“ish” as it all was, I was still terrified and constantly checking for a car about to cross the bridge.

Just then my fiance called me over to the middle of the bridge to take some pictures sitting against the railing. Pretending to have the time of my life, I said “cheese” as the unmistakable noise from a car engine was coming towards us. The sound was too loud for a car. I turned and saw that it was a logging truck – of course it was. But what was it doing here? This bridge was technically “out of order!”

“Is this how I go out?” It seemed like a valid question in the moment.

Before we had a chance to run to the other side, the truck advanced onto the bridge. “Hold on tight!” my fiance yelled as he moved his camera equipment off the path, while carefully running towards me to secure us to the railing.

As the truck crossed, the bridge began to violently shake at an alarming rate for a truck that was crossing as slowly as he could. Our bodies jerked back and forth as we held on tight to the steel bridge railing.

It felt like a 4.0-5.0 magnitude earthquake that went on for minutes. I knew this feeling because I grew up with quakes as a California kid.

During those moments, I was surprised by how calm and collected I was. Did faking joy the previous moments have anything to do with it? I had no idea.

With my eyes still closed, my fiance nervously laughed as he told me the driver was waving to us as he passed, probably amused at how terrified we were.

After the truck successfully crossed, my out-of-body experience dissipated. I started looking around surprised I was still on the bridge.

Moments earlier I was faking joy and now I was feeling the real thing!

The feeling was confusing but welcomed. It wasn’t just because I felt like I had cheated death, but for an even better reason: this event marked the first time I had taken a risk since my late husband passed. I was living a pretty small life to keep bad things from happening to me. This event showed me I could endure a scare 420 feet above the earth and come out alive feeling great happiness coupled with a genuine smile on my face – real joy.

My fiance felt terrible about the whole thing, but what he didn’t know was that he had inadvertently given me a beautiful gift.

Have you ever gone from faking joy to feeling the real thing during your widow journey? I’d love to hear about it!


My widow journey began in 2011 when I was 27. My late husband passed away from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. My re-entry into life has been difficult, but my relationship with God, being diagnosed with PTSD and my passion for music, dance and science have greatly helped me get back on my feet. I am currently preparing for graduate school and volunteer as an endometriosis educator for the Endometriosis Foundation of America.

I have so much that I look forward to sharing with you and I hope that you may find something in my writing that will bring hope to your own journey, help you through the tough days, and show you that happiness can be found in the midst of grief.

You can follow me on Instagram at @kellcann