Grief is like cycling uphill

Grief is like suddenly finding yourself cycling uphill. But this path is not maintained. It’s bumpy and filled with potholes, loose gravel and sand pits. This mountain is not for the faint of heart. You push and push as you gasp for breath, thinking “I’m not strong enough for this.” But you know the only way forward is to simply keep pressing on. Your thighs are on fire and your lungs are desperate for more oxygen, you gasp, you wheeze, you fight down bile that tries to make its way up. You keep focused on the road immediately in front of you because if you looked further up you’d be overwhelmed. “It gets better with time,” everyone tells you – “Fuck you,” you think, “I’m not concerned with time I’m concerned with right now and climbing up this fucking, never ending mountain.”

Days go by and you’re exhausted and sore. Your whole body is trembling but you’re now more determined than ever to climb this mountain. You’ve found ways to manage the pain, and have discovered that if you stop for even just 10 seconds that that gives you just enough time for your lungs and legs to rebound allowing you set off again. Give yourself a break, you think, otherwise you’ll die.

Weeks pass by and you’re feeling stronger everyday. You stop less frequently. You find yourself actively pushing yourself. Your gaze expands to more than just a few feet in front of you. You see life all around you and it simultaneously makes you long for the person whose absence has put you on this path and makes you hopeful that you will eventually make it up this mountain. You cycle and cycle hoping that just around the bend you’ll find some relief, but each corner only continues upward. You sigh and summon all your energy to keep pushing you further and further up.

Months pass and you find yourself laughing more and congratulating yourself for each bend you pass. You’re far stronger now. Your legs are steel as they keep pumping, keep pedaling. Your lungs take in enough air. It’s still hard work and sometimes your body bonks but you know how to take care of yourself now. Your gaze has expanded even wider. Occasionally you see other riders – and you give each other a knowing nod, a secret message of “you too? keep on peddling.” You also see friends and loved ones on the sides cheering you on as they hand you food and water. “I’m going to make it,” you think with determination. You’ve learned to glide the flats to prep you for the climbs. There are still moments when you feel like you’re choking on nothing, when the bile starts to make its way up – but you’ve learned to let it pass through you and to keep pedaling on.

Eventually you see the peak in the distance. It’s beautiful as small clouds form and swirl around the top. Nothing but sky above. No more dodging pot holes, gravel, and sand pits. You push yourself to the max knowing the end is in sight. As you reach the peak, your body is both broken and stronger than it’s ever been. You heave and lunge yourself forward before, finally, stopping to take it all in. You look out and think, “I never would have seen this if I didn’t keep climbing.” Then you break down into tears. Tears of sorrow, tears of pain, tears of joy, tears of perseverance, tears of gratitude. Because you’re thankful to have loved someone so much that just the memory of them has helped to push you up this mountain. That, that is how powerful love is.

Grief, grief is like cycling uphill. We discover who we really are in grief. Are you the type to give up and never venture out? Or are you the type who says, “I know this won’t be easy, but I must, must, get through this.” Cycling has taught me that it doesn’t matter how much pain you’re in, how much your lungs, back, legs and groin are screaming in pain. If you keep pedaling, if you keep pushing yourself even just a little bit further every day, you will become stronger. It actually does get better with time, but no one in pain wants to hear that. They can only focus on the immediate. If you go in knowing just how far you’ve got to climb it can overwhelm you so you have to just focus on bend after bend. Eventually, when you’re strong enough, you can take it all in. Grief, like cycling, will never not be hard work – but you have to keep on pushing yourself forward.

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