I took my reflection walk in nature, and by “nature,” I mean a large parking lot located across the street from where I’ve been staying during quarantine. It’s one of the only places I can walk where I’m certain I won’t run into anyone else, and though it’s not the most romantic of locations, I felt that it ended up being a kind of perfect visual metaphor for my journey through grief.
The parking lot is only so big, so if I want to go on a walk of any length, I have to make numerous laps. Each time I start over back at the beginning, I experience a twinge of frustration, exhaustion, a resistance to go on. No matter how much progress I feel I’m making or how far I’ve already walked, suddenly I can find myself at the beginning again.
As I walk, my eye is often drawn to the center of the parking lot, which is desolate, empty, bleak. I find myself ignoring that on my other side is a beautiful marshland, populated with tall grasses, birds, a blue horizon full of white fluffy clouds.
Right after my mother passed away, where my grief journey began, I imagined grief as a road with a definitive beginning and end. Like this parking lot, though, my journey through grief is cyclical. No matter how far I travel, I will inevitably find myself back where I started sometimes. It’s exhausting, arriving at this same place. It seems to discount the progress and growth I’ve experienced along the way.
However, each time I start over, I carry with me the knowledge of the journey ahead and the strength I’ve built slowly with each lap. Each time I start over, I try to notice something new about myself and my surroundings. I try to open my eyes to the beauty around me as opposed to putting my head down and pushing ahead. I spent so much of my journey just trying to walk as fast as possible, as if to run away from my grief. It felt like something I had to just get done.
It took me a long time to figure out how to slow down, to let the rising tidal wave of grief crash over me, knowing that once it had receded I would feel, yes, a little shaken, but also refreshed, renewed, and more alive. My experience with grief has been about embracing both the bleak and the beautiful, accepting that this infinite loop that was set in motion by the death of my mother will never end, but that with each lap I become stronger, more able to turn my eyes towards the life blooming around me.
–Mary Clohan, End-of-Life Doula