As you approach the first anniversary of losing the amazing person that shared your life, I have a vision I would like to share with you.

I am imagining you wearing a heavily laden backpack. This pack is filled with the searing pain of separation, the desperate fear of the unknown, the intense longing for the touch of someone who loves you, the emerging hope you have for the future, and a new love for today. You are surrounded by the beauty of the Arizona countryside, heading up the North side of the Grand Canyon.  The landscape is breath-taking, sometimes the beauty of your surroundings causes tears to run down your cheeks–other times it makes you draw in your breath in wonder.

As you begin to ascend the canyon, you are feeling your legs–aware of the strain the climb creates. Your muscles feel weak at first, but as you continue ascending, you realize there is strength in your legs you didn’t know you had. Each step forward requires effort.  The grade of the climb changes often, once in a while the steep angle makes you lose your footing and fall back. Yet, even with the backward steps, you move forward, pressed on by the thought that you are capable.

Following the winding path up the trail, you realize that the journey to the bottom of the canyon was fraught with pain and fear. There were days you felt you were free-falling and other days when you sat on a ledge unable to move either forward or back. No markers indicated where the bottom of the canyon was, so the descent felt as if it would last forever.

Then, without warning, you found yourself standing on the banks of the majestic Colorado River. You are out of breath and a bit dizzy, but miraculously still in one piece. Trying to get your bearings, you are shocked to discover that the descent is over. Calm surrounds you as you become aware that you have survived. You no longer need to wonder if you can live through the treacherous freefall of loss. Suddenly, you know that your goal is to climb out of the gorge you dropped into, one step at a time.

With each passing moment, the strength in your muscles gives you confidence.  The weight of your pack seems to change as you climb.  Perhaps you have grown accustomed to the added load, but whatever the reason, you feel able to bear the weight. Climbing all the way up the opposite side of the Grand Canyon suddenly seems possible. Though you have a distance to go and your destination is not in plain view, you know it is there–not by sight, but by instinct. You can envision the outer edge of the canyon, and you have no fear of disappointment.

Your journey will be whatever it is meant to be, and you are at peace. You have learned the lesson of the descent–you only have today. Today is what you live for, tomorrow is what you hope for, and yesterday is where your heart learned it’s most poignant lessons.

Onward, friend.

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Michele Neff Hernandez

Michele Neff Hernandez

Michele Neff Hernandez is the founder and executive director of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation. SSLF is a non-profit organization committed to providing resources and support to people grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to her work with the foundation, Michele inspires people as a motivational speaker and freelance writer. Through speaking to service groups, faith communities, Universities and hosting community seminars she has shared her thoughts on loss and hope with a variety of audiences. She is the creator of the Widow Match program. Since the death of her husband in 2005, she has made reaching out to other widows her personal mission. Ms. Hernandez’s various projects have been featured in the Ventura County Star, the Simi Valley Acorn, and the Riverside County Record. She is a contributing author to several websites and is chronicling the interviews she has done with widows across the country in a book called, The Healing Power of the Widow’s Bond. Currently, she is planning a national widowhood conference scheduled for the summer of 2009. Ms. Hernandez is a resident of Simi Valley, California where she lives and laughs with her three amazing children. An avid runner and outdoor enthusiast, she actively encourages others to embrace the life we are given.

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