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My Grief and the Healing Power of “Desert Time”

My Grief and the Healing Power of “Desert Time”

Greetings one and all…

I am composing my remarks today while wandering and wondering in the desert—literally and figuratively. Family and friends gathered earlier this week to honor my brother and to spread his ashes in the place he loved the most—the red rocks of Moab, Utah. I, too, love this corner of the world. We grew up coming to Moab every spring and/or summer for family vacations. Scrambling over the slick rock before the advent of mountain bikes. Exploring the mysteries of Canyonlands National Park prior to paved roads, portable toilets, and potable water in the park. Savoring the sacred space in advance of the masses that now clog every road, overlook, trail, and campsite. As a family, we shared amazing adventures and created a lifetime of memories—memories that fill every pore of my being. Not surprisingly, this week has been, and continues to be, an emotional roller coaster. Saying goodbye to my brother is hard. But it’s time.

Family and friends traveled from places far and wide to gather in the desert. Our community served many purposes and needs. We obviously honored my brother’s final wishes. By so doing, we also supported each other as we took the next step in our grieving process. We reconnected by “re-membering” my brother—putting the pieces of his life together as we shared special memories with each other. We facilitated the healing process by listening, talking, singing, laughing, cooking, eating, hiking, praying, and being. And most importantly, we openly and unabashedly “loved on each other.” It was heart warming and heart breaking. Consequently, we all experienced emotional whiplash multiple times this week.

Earlier today, everyone (with the exception of yours truly) headed back home. I opted to stay in the desert for an additional two days to wonder while wandering in the red rocks. I need some time to reflect on the events of the past few days, to relish the solitude of the setting, and to reconcile my emotions with the reality of my loss. Desert time affords the desired opportunity—and the daunting challenge—to mourn my profound loss. It’s not something I want to do. But it is something I need to do in order to move on with my life.

So tomorrow, I plan to wander in the red rocks and to wonder about life. As I revisit select sites in the area, I know memories will bubble up and waves of grief will wash over me. In the desert, I am exposed to the elements just like the massive red rocks. There is no place to run. No place to hide. Instead, it’s time to see, to feel, and to wrestle with my grief. Although painful, I have no doubt that desert time will prove to be a gift that will continue to bless me in the days, weeks, and years to come. By intentionally dealing with the death of my brother, I will ultimately be free to re-engage with life and to risk loving again. Saying goodbye is the hardest task posed by life. However, it is a risk I am willing to assume in order to love and to be loved by incredible souls like my brother. I will be forever grateful for my time in the desert—a time for wandering, wondering, and healing.

I have no doubt that you have suffered significant losses over the course of your lifetime. Loss is an inherent aspect of the human experience. So today, I encourage you to seek and to embrace desert time—to initiate or continue your healing process. Granted, the desert is a harsh and threatening environment for the ill-informed and unprepared. However, when ready, willing, and able to make the trek, our time in the desert ultimately offers the life-giving balm that soothes our souls. A blessing indeed.

I look forward to the ongoing conversation. If you have specific questions or concerns related to your caregiving experience, I would love to hear from you. Until the next posting, I wish you and yours countless blessings…jane

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