September 4, 2019

It was a beautiful, sunny morning in my childhood home of Durango, CO. My parents, the kids and I had driven down for the Labor Day weekend to see close friends, play in the river, and to simply enjoy our old stomping grounds together. I threw on my running shoes to go for a run up the nature trail, which takes you up the side of a mesa that overlooks the entire downtown and provides awesome views of the mountains. I had grown up walking and running this trail and was eager to take my solo run down memory lane several years later. Just out the door, my right foot started to feel slightly numb and weak. I soon found myself face down on the concrete!! With some fresh road rash on my knee, hip and elbow that matched the scratches on my iPhone, I hastily looked around to make sure no one saw my flop on flat asphalt and kept running. Further up the trail I started to smile at the symbolism behind my fall.

The weakness in my right foot was a result of an injury that occurred on March 2, 2018, after four hours of pushing during Theo’s labor. I had pinched a nerve that prevented me from being able to flex my foot — “dropped foot” — affecting my ability to walk, drive, or do anything besides hobble around for about eight weeks. With a toddler, a newborn, and a sick husband, I felt like I was going crazy. But, couldn’t do anything about it. I needed to stop moving. I needed to heal.

My dropped foot now functions, but it’s still not entirely healed. I’ve gone to physical therapy and workout daily, but it still feels slightly weaker and wobblier than my left foot. During my morning run, it was a not so gentle reminder that healing takes time.

During the rest of my run, I smiled at this reminder because just a week ago I wrote a passage that I chose NOT to share because it was basically a giant rant on my life. In it I wrote, whoever said “healing takes time” is full of CRAP, because I feel like everything is getting worse! And it’s true. Sometimes I truly feel that I’m regressing in my grief journey because this reality is just too hard to comprehend at times.

But the truth is that Ian has only been gone for five months. And this first year is going to be difficult. It’s going to be another seven months of “firsts” without him — and there are some BIG ones coming … Izzy’s birthday, his birthday, Christmas, the list goes on. Even visiting Durango this weekend was emotional because just last June, Ian was here with us completing our family vacation with four.

Ian loved Durango. We had visited during our college days on several occasions, including the notorious Snow Down Festival where Ian dressed up in a crazy costume that included a long-haired purple wig and got kicked out of a local bar trying to line-dance with our friends. When he wasn’t getting into trouble, he enjoyed floating down the river (even though his tube deflated halfway through!), tried fly fishing (for a hot second), ate delicious Mexican food, and got a glimpse of my childhood growing up — just as I do whenever I visit Kailua.

Ian wanted to visit Durango last summer on our bucket list road trip to San Diego. So, we made it our first stop. I look back at the pictures from that trip and viscerally feel that he should be here with us now. It was just one year ago. Everything else here feels the same — the places, the people, the experiences. But there is an obvious void; a major missing piece. And, that piece is Ian.

It makes sense that these experiences will all feel intensely different this year. It’s the first year since I was 18 years old that Ian is not in my life. So that absence, that void will be all the more profound. And while right now, in the midst of this journey, it might feel like my grief is getting worse — I remind myself to take a step back (or pound my face into the concrete!) and remember that:

Grief is not linear and that healing takes time. Instead of sprinting out the door to finish my grief, be gentle. Take it slowly. Heal.

These reminders (subtle or not) come in several forms.

When someone dies it’s not uncommon to look for meaning in seemingly insignificant eventslike falling on your face on a flat, smoothly paved road.

Or, listening to the lyrics of a song that speaks to you so clearly as if the dead special person in your life is literally talking to you. Guiding you.

These signs can also take place in nature — like the juxtaposition of rainbows in sites of immense tragedy.

They can also come in the form of a childhood friend, who has drowned in the same sorrow just three years before you and has resurfaced stronger, more full of light, and readier for all that life has to offer. Her radiance, confidence and and wisdom is living proof that yes, the wound will always be there. But with time, it metamorphoses into something entirely new…like love.

Sometimes we need our hearts to break — to be cracked entirely open — to see that the universe offers us so many answers. If we look at these signs through a different lens and really listen to them, they can guide us. They can tell us if we are on track; if we need to slow down and heal; if we need to stop second guessing our feelings and follow our intuition. Because when we are cracked totally open, our heart takes the lead and the rest just follows suit.

I’m so grateful for these beautiful (sometimes painful) signs the universe has offered me over this Labor Day weekend.

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