We’re unloading our three young children from the car as I see an older couple leaving the trail we are about to embark on. A hike without a map, an adventure with unfamiliar territory. This trail is said to lead to a beautiful waterfall but as we look around I begin to wonder if we were equipped for the journey.
As my husband searches the grounds (and Google) for a map for this hike, I immediately watch those around me, the ones exiting the place we are hopeful to find. I walk over to the couple and apologize for the interruption as I kindly ask for their guidance for the hike ahead. The woman smiles and tells me it’s rocky and bumpy and quite difficult but ultimately worth the effort, even with little ones. She tells me as much as she can in the short minute we speak and soon I’m headed down the path with my family.
I smirk as I tell my husband the words of wisdom this lady has bestowed upon me. I tell him to prepare because most likely this wouldn’t be an easy path. The further we walk, the deeper we understand the stranger’s insight. This path is treacherous. It’s unpredictable, unstable and scary. We can’t see the end or the final destination and must focus on each step, one at a time.
With immense effort, patience, and love we all make it to the bottom to find the most gorgeous waterfall. Delicately tucked away, vacant, as if there solely for us and this moment. As we all rest on the rocks in front of nature’s artwork, I find myself contemplating grief and love and how they mirror this hike. A hike that had no map or directions, only the insight of the ones that walked it before.
While their knowledge provided resources and tools for our journey, it was still unique to our family’s steps. While we knew to brace for a challenging hike, we didn’t know what those challenges would be until we were actually stepping into it.
People can help us prepare for grief. They can tell us the tools we’ll need and the terrain that we are about to observe but the steps we take are distinctly ours. The weather that surrounds that hike is unique to this moment. The way we climb down and the way we step up are especially crafted by our own experiences.
You can only figure out grief by journeying it yourself. You can only understand grief’s map when you begin writing it. You can only understand grief’s terrain once you are walking it.
Ultimately, grief’s hike always leads to life’s most precious and breathtaking work, love. It all leads back to love.
Just like this bold and brilliant waterfall that flows before me, grief’s path leads to an endless and mesmerizing love. You simply have to get through the muck, and the fear, and the hard-to-take steps, and cross over the bridge from loss to legacy. Afterall, grief is really just a life that entered eternity and a love that transcends that journey.
Keep hiking. Keep stepping. Your waterfall is waiting.
A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.