It’s a word that I’ve heard a fair bit recently. That I’m “brave” for swimming in very cold water, or that I’m “brave” for walking in the mountains by myself. And each and every time it’s said I want to respond “you don’t understand”, because I’m not doing these things to demonstrate courage, or fearlessness, or sisu, or whatever the hell you want to call it, but simply to stay alive. The truth is that the walks, swims, bereavement counselling, and key members of the grief tribe, are helping me keep my promise to Rich – to stick around and make our plans happen. Without them, I’d have gone under. And I love Rich so much that that can’t happen. He made me promise, and as he would do for me, I’d do anything for him.
Words matter. They matter a lot. When someone tells me I’m brave, it makes me recoil a little because I worry that people think I’m doing all this for show. Or that I’m trying to demonstrate that such things can help people ‘heal’. They can’t and they don’t. The words ‘heal’ and ‘healing’ will be dismantled in another blog, but for now it’s enough to say that as profound grief is not an illness, no amount of physical activity is going to diminish it, or allow us to ‘get better’ quickly. There’s no getting better from the loss of someone as special as Rich, and from a soulmate relationship that is as fulfilling in every way as ours is.
What the walks and swims do however, is allow me to physically move with the pain in my head and heart, rather than trying to push it aside. I walk with grief, rather than through it. Distraction doesn’t work. That pain simply lies in wait, but moving with it allows it to settle in. It’s a part of me, it’s my love for Rich and his love for me, and as we loved to walk and swim together, continuing to do so seemed like the natural thing to do. I knew instinctively that I had to walk a few days after he’d died. And whereas many people say they find it distressing going to special places, I’d find it distressing not to. Immersing myself in the pain, by immersing myself in water and wildscapes, has become the only way for me to exist, because it allows me to continue my relationship with Rich. Our love hasn’t died.