The Lesson of the Mountain Switch-back (or Keep Moving Through Your Grief)
Did you feel like someone pushed you off a cliff and you tumbled head long into the black pit of grief, barely having survived? Perhaps you felt like day by day, the earth was crumbling below your feet until it finally gave way and you crashed to the bottom of that same pit. Either way, you hit bottom, hard.
As the initial numbness of shock wears off, even in our intense pain, we discover that the pit of grief is actually like a large rocky valley where the sun does not shine and nothing grows. We realize that we have no choice but to start the journey out, the journey though grief.
The trouble is that the sides of the valley are too steep to climb right out. The path is like a mountaineer’s winding switch-back, crazy and unpredictable, as it works its way up and out. You too may feel like you are going back and forth over the same issues, and the same territory. However, the good news is that it is often very similar but not identical. You are making progress.
The traumatic memories, painful emotions, logistical issues, and secondary losses all need to be processed repeatedly but at more refined and different levels as you climb out this shadowy, cold valley. It is like crossing the same river in the switch-back but each time you cross it, it is narrower and easier as you get upstream to the source. The powerful, overwhelming intensity of the emotions decreases as you process them.
For me, I knew I was healing when, for a whole day, I had not thought of my son who had died. I felt guilty at first but I realized I was giving myself permission to go on with other things. Another sign was when it dawned on me that my new normal was that I was now a mother who lost a child regardless of how I fought it. It helped me move to a deeper level of acceptance.
There is great reward for keeping moving on the crazy, switch-back journey through the rocky terrain of grief. You will find that you come alive, can smell the flowers and the feel the warm sunshine once again. Most importantly, your strength will return and you will find happiness again.