Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our Journeys

Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking.
                        -Antonio Machado-

I’ve always been drawn to the metaphor that depicts life as a journey. Perhaps it’s the traveler in me, but the idea that we are all charting new territory as we navigate life's terrain is one that resonates with me. The only map we're ever given has the beginning (birth) and ending (death) marked on it, but we have no idea the distance between the two. Everything in between is filled with detours, potholes, twists and turns that take us to unexpected destinations along the way. That's life. 

Losing our 21-year-old son Matthew was a detour we never imagined we'd find ourselves taking. Suddenly we had to recalibrate, and we found ourselves on a new journey-a journey of grief.  And like life's journey, I think my grief journey will be a lifelong one. 

This past week I’ve found myself thinking quite a bit about grief journeys, because a woman I know in our community has lost her husband unexpectedly.  He was young--59--and now she too finds herself, without warning, on a grief journey. Actually, that’s the thing about these types of journeys, you often find yourself on them completely by surprise. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about her and her family and the path they now travel.  

What I remember most about those early days is the baffling sense of disorientation I felt.  It was hard to get my bearings; my compass had been knocked askew.  I’ve written before how time seemed to slow down during those early weeks and months, and with it my journey slowed to an almost  unbearable pace. But that's the thing about life, even when you think you are at a dead end, you continue to make progress and eventually another path emerges. So my family and I trudged forward on an unmarked trail that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. 

Along the way I met some of the most amazing fellow travelers, many of whom I wouldn't have met had I not been on this road. We shared our grief stories with one another and I'm so grateful for their presence in my life. They helped me see through my heartache so that eventually I was able to see joy again. My eyes were opened to a world I hadn't given much thought to previously, and I have been forever changed. 

I've written before about the transformational power of grief. And while my particular grief journey is centered on the death of my son, I know that one can grieve many things. It can be the death of a marriage, the end of a friendship, the loss of a job, children growing up, moving to a new place or an illness. Loss is an inevitable part of life. It's a detour that takes us to new places that we never even knew were on our maps. But it's the journey to these new places that helps give us a new sense of meaning and purpose as we continue along our path. 


  1. Robin, this is beautifully expressed - and what a help it will be to a new traveler on the path! I love the images you introduce here, and the way you weave them together. You describe the feelings and the reality so clearly.

    Though we never wanted to walk this path, I am so grateful to have met you on it! Sending love to you.

    1. Karen, I am SO grateful to have met you on it too! We'll walk together.

  2. Robin,
    All so true, and so well written

    love, Bobbie