There is a lot of stress that comes with losing a loved one. A therapist told me that on the scale of stress, the highest form of grief related stress was the grief that came from losing a spouse–not a parent, a sibling, a best friend…even though those too are horrific losses. The stress comes from the loss itself and from the way in which it impacts every aspect of our life: finances, routine, identity, even pets. It’s like walking along on a wonderful journey, a happily married mountaintop, when all of a sudden you get thrown off the mountain, dropped in a ravine, and are asked to climb back up a neighboring mountain. You will be doing so alone and supplies have to be found, like some complicated video game where they hover and disappear. There may be other people on the trail, and hopefully they are friendly and offer advice and hugs, but no one can take you up the mountain to the plateau. You won’t ever reach the spot you were in before, because you can’t walk that same mountain. In fact, that other mountain has disappeared behind a thick fog. The fog may clear a little, but for right now, you will have to find other sources of direction rather than only precious memories.
I recently asked someone for tips on managing stress and new mountain journeys, and they responded with a question that has been lingering in my mind the past few days. The question was simple enough — “where does your strength come from?”
I had a couple of answers off the top of my head, namely my husband, my faith, and the love that encapsulates both relationships, as well as the promise of a heavenly reunion. Those are my long term internal sources of strength. But when my internal wounds are throbbing, it takes external support to move forward. In the midst of grief, the world around you is so important.
I’ve realized how many little things give me strength . Most often I find the uplifting comes from people who take the time to look out for me and show me love and attention. It often doesn’t feel deserved. There have been several times when people stepped up and I found myself floored, thinking “you have no obligation to me…” but I’m blessed to be the recipient for a while. In that, I’m learning that if someone offers you a gift along the journey, accept it and pray for a way to pay it forward or support them down the line. It’s okay when you feel like you have nothing to offer back right now.
Sometimes it’s the way my dogs greet me, or the empowerment that comes from working towards a new goal. Other times it’s a good book or the smile on the face of a child who still believes in the goodness of the world.
I’ve found that sudden strength in classic country songs turned up too loud in my truck. I’ve found it in the smell of foods that triggered fond memories and the reminder of a rainy afternoon years ago that the fresh dampened ground elicits.
But perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned about strength is that it comes a new in different ways each day. We all know the feeling of just needing to “get through” something. As widows who are grieving, it can be getting through the day, the hour, the minute, and even the moment. But in surviving we add a little more sand to our inner grit, and find that strength thickening our blood for years to come.
I hope you find daily strength, and trust that on the dark days there will be a new source of strength waiting. I’m right there with you, and ready to celebrate the little treasures of joy our world still offers.
Here’s to the trip up the mountain, and letting that grit build up inside you.