Nearly everything feels extremely horrible and sad in early grief. Reengaging with life doesn’t feel possible, imaginable, or desirable. We’re in survival mode. We live on a minute-to-minute basis. Figuring out tomorrow? Yeah, right. You’re just trying to get out of bed, brush your teeth, and shower.

You’re learning how to balance work and grief. How do you care for yourself and your family or cope with not having the family you once had or hoped to have had?

You find yourself in the depths of despair. Early grief surrounds you in an unrelenting storm of darkness. It’s like driving through the fog—you can barely see a few feet ahead. You have no clue what’s around you or what’s ahead.

It’s natural to feel like there isn’t a way out during these times. The options don’t seem available. I remember sitting in a therapist’s office after my second love died. “I can’t see hope. This was the second time around. All I see is endless fog. How can I believe for anything ‘better’?” I asked her.

Many of you have asked me the same question or told me hope and life other than you know it doesn’t exist. If you’ve ever felt this way, here’s a thought to consider:

Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a misty lake. You’ve never been here before, and thick fog surrounds you. You can’t see anything to the left or right of you, but you can see thick fog up ahead. From your vantage point, you likely feel trapped. How do you get out of this place? There aren’t any other options.

Then, the haze starts clearing up, and you catch a faint glimpse of a bridge in the distance. You realize you don’t have to be stuck where you are. There’s another option.

After a loss or a traumatic event, it’s challenging to notice the bridges in our lives. Pain and mental confusion inhibit us from seeing beyond the fog. However, if you had been to this lake before, you would likely have known that a bridge to safety existed.

Sometimes, after loss, we need someone who’s been where we are to point us to the options we can’t see. It’s not about dismissing your pain or pretending everything is fine. The bridge of emotional safety doesn’t change the presence of grief. It shows you a way without getting lost at sea.

Sometimes, after loss, we need someone who’s been where we are to point us to the options we can’t see.

You control the direction you take—the bridge or the murky waters. In darkness and loss, there are choices and pathways to explore that you’re unaware of.

I understand this might be your first time hearing this perspective, and it’s natural to resist it. It might not feel safe. I get that because I’ve walked where you’ve stood. Therefore, entertaining the idea of feeling safe with yourself and others doesn’t seem likely.

I want to reassure you that it’s okay to continue standing by the murky waters for a while. The path across that bridge might not be what you’re ready for, and that’s all right. Grief doesn’t have a predetermined schedule.

Please know that wherever you find yourself—at the lake looking for a way through or processing the fog, it’s all normal. And when you’re ready, you can control the path you take.

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