The Gravel Road of Grieving

Reader Contribution by D. Susan Rutz
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When you are grieving the loss of someone very special to you, it’s beyond hard. I recently lost my mother so I am familiar with the “Steps of Grieving” information bulletin. There are steps-levels-phases, however you want to describe it, there are steps in the grieving process, but the one they don’t tell you about is the Gravel Road of Grieving. I had to discover it on my own. 

You know, you never know what you might find at the end of that gravel road, but it sure is bumpy, and if you are driving a 4-wheeler, it’s a lot of fun. The gravel road I’m referring to is the one that surprises you at every turn.

I’m doing pretty well in my recovery process, but there are times when I have a bad day, where I don’t want to get out of bed. I avoid people on those days, I know I’m not functioning well and could at any time explode into sobs. It’s an embarrassing process to go through in public. Heart wrenching sobs, snot running down your face, and a burning pain in the heart. That’s private stuff that shouldn’t be shared with the average Joe. It really puts them on the spot. They don’t know what to do about it, and I’m in such a state I can’t explain what is happening. 

I walked into a McDonalds one morning for a breakfast sandwich. It was a glorious day, the sun was shinning, the temperature was
perfect, and I felt great. I had an interview for a job the day before and that went really well, I might actually be hired soon. It was just a great day and I was feeling perfectly fine. I was watching this young mother with her two children at a nearby table. She was opening their juices and they were chattering away with excitement at the outing. The little girl had a pink dress on. You don’t see that much these days, usually little girls are wearing jeans or shorts. I thought it was nice.

The customer in front me was still ordering so I looked around the counter area and spied the glass globe of available toys for the
Happy Meal choice. They have such cute things for kids nowadays. The man in front of me finished his order and I stepped forward to face a cute little high-schooler with heavy braces on her teeth. She smiled at me and inquired what she could get for me, that’s when I turned off the paved road of contentment and hit the gravel road of grieving. 

I opened my mouth to order, and instead a loud, crumbly sob spilled out. It sounded like a moose call. It startled the girl, she stepped back, and it embarrassed me but there was no stopping it. Once you hit that gravel road, you can only ride it out. I did the only thing I could do, I ran for a pit stop.

I was throwing water on my face when the young mother I had witnessed taking care of her two children walked in. She didn’t bring the children with her, so she wasn’t there for a potty break, and I couldn’t imagine that she would leave them at the table to come see about me, but she had. She was familiar with the gravel road, and she wanted to help. 

Let me tell you right now, telling someone about your loss really doesn’t help at that particular moment. I know everybody loses someone they love. I know we all have to die. I know all of that, telling me about your losses does not help me off the gravel road.

“It happens to me at the worst times too,” she started softly. 

Oh God, please spare me this conversation. 

“Don’t let it bother you, just clean your face, and march right back out there and order your breakfast like nothing happened. They don’t know, they don’t need to know, as far as they are concerned, you swallowed a bug.”

Now that struck me as funny, and I started laughing–hysterically. Oh my God, I’m losing my mind. 

She smiled at me, it was a silly crooked smile and I could image her doing it for her children after making a joke to them. She patted my shoulder and left the room. 

There’s a lot to be said about strangers with that kind of strength. I admire their ability to walk up and offer a hand, what beautiful
hearts they must process. I did as she said, cleaned my face, put my head up and walked right back to that counter to order my breakfast.  Unfortunately, the line was longer and I didn’t trust my ability to be as strong as she, so I made a quick u-turn toward the door and left. 

I decided to take a drive, and that’s when I found this photo opportunity. Two trees growing through silos, it’s kind of inspiring, don’t you think?  I’m not sure if I want to be the trees, protected all the way around by concrete blocks–no squirrels on my
limbs–or, if I feel sorry that the trees can’t be free to stretch out. 

I’ll probably be on this gravel road for awhile, but I carry my camera so I can capture the inspiring bumps along the way.