Grief may be a hard teacher, but its lessons are often lasting and meaningful. Grief takes away the surface of our lives and leaves us with the substance, even if it is the uninvited guest, the stranger who shows up at the door and barges in without asking.
Some days the lessons of grief seem unending. We will all have to experience it ourselves … usually multiple times. Each of us must travel down that road. If we try to avoid the way—try to skirt our way around it—eventually we may find that the detour we’ve taken has led right back to the beginning. All roads will eventually lead back to grief.
Sometimes, the road of grief takes us in a circuitous direction and it doesn’t seem like we’re making any progress. It reminds me of an experience I once had while traveling back to my then home in Laramie, Wyoming from Fort Collins, Colorado. On the map it appeared there was a road that cut through the mountains and led to Mountain Home, Wyoming, southwest of Laramie. My companion and I drove and drove for hours until the sun was setting and we were getting a little nervous that we might have to spend a night in our car in the mountains. Finally, we stopped at a paved road, discovering that we had arrived about a half mile back from where we had first turned off the highway.
Incidentally, none of us can ever fully fathom the depth or breadth of another’s grief. It all depends upon each person’s relationship with the deceased, the circumstances of the death, and whether or not there was any unfinished business, as there so often is.
As much as we would all sing, like bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley, “O, death / O, death / Won’t you spare me over till another year,” death will come calling when it chooses, and then we’ll find ourselves back on that road once again.