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Stepping out of life...the healing power of nature

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog and have to admit to feeling a little apprehensive. Stepping out of life seems to have partially shut down my brain. Maybe it’s my heart trying to protect my head or the other way round!

Until we became bereaved parents I had no idea the loss of a child is a forever pain. That broken hearts never heal. That we would hold on to memories as though our very lives depended on them and permanently exist in survival mode.

Our youngest son, Ben, was twenty five when he died from cardiac arrest almost five years ago. The shock of losing him is still raw, the pain still constant and our hearts still silently scream in agony. He is never more than a thought away and I absolutely hate that missing him is starting to feel normal.

I’ve just finished reading a book by Kristin Harmal who describes it perfectly,

‘Motherhood never ceases, even through loss and pain. To carry a child in your heart is to belong to that child forever’.

– Kirstin Harmel ‘The Road Home’

Blissfully relaxing under the shade of olive trees in the beautiful Croatian sun listening to a cacophony of extremely noisy cicadas, feeling like I’ve been transported into another world.

My husband, Paul, and I are nine weeks into a twelve week trip around Europe in our camper van – something we had been talking about and planning for about a year.

Paul had already retired and I was able to take a three month career break from work. This precious gift of time is a blessing we don’t treat lightly. Our weary souls (worn down by grief) were craving rest, desperate to step outside the trappings of routine and rekindle some of the joy we used to have for living.

We hoped that travel, adventure, discovery and the beauty of nature would somehow distract us from the gaping hole in our lives. Grief is exhausting and we were tired of trying to hide our pain. Tired of living under a constant weight of sadness. Losing your child affects everything and we saw this as an opportunity to recharge our batteries, to rethink life, to realign priorities and maybe even find a little respite for our broken hurting hearts.

Leaving home on 24th April 2023 (Ben’s 30th birthday) was hugely significant. Ben loved adventures and in a symbolic way this was our gift to him. It felt like we were taking him with us!

Inspired by his passion, we wanted to explore the world he loved, visit new places, meet new people, let grief mingle subtly into our adventure.

But there is no escaping the indescribable ache that is always there. Pain and trauma etched into the very fibre of our beings – like invisible tattoos on our hearts. We love our darling boy as much as ever, yet love that was once so simple and unassuming, is now entwined with sorrow and so many deep unfulfilled longings – to hear his voice, touch him, hug him, celebrate his big milestones with him.

It’s not possible to recapture the easy happiness we once took for granted but removing ourselves from the everyday reminders is helping. This incredible gift of time has forced us to slow down; to think more clearly; to breathe more easily; to be more thankful for each other and what we still have and to be less debilitated by the destructive agony of grief.

And most importantly to find hope in the midst of pain – ‘to find a peace that passes all understanding…’ Philippians 4:7

As one of our boys pointed out – Ben would want us to miss him but he wouldn’t want his death to destroy us. He loved us too much for that and we love him too much to let it happen.

It’s difficult to explain but in stepping away we embraced a new and simpler way of living – walking, cycling, swimming, reading. We have less expectations – we’re more relaxed – more calm. We take each day as it comes. We talk more. I’m less anxious; less agitated. I haven’t been waking up in a panic. The test will be if we can maintain all this on our return home.

Continue reading Ruth McDonald's blog here

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