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Navigating the Bumps in the Road

Navigating the Bumps in the Road | After the Heartbreak
Navigating the Bumps in the Road

The clouds were grey and hanging low in the sky when I got into my car and drove away from my home. The heavy skies were threatening rain, and the weather matched my mood as I took a deep breath, and fought to regain the tight control I had had on my emotions and well-being for some time. But…it felt like things were going off the rails.

So what happened?

Let me back up a bit.  It has been a rough few days.  The grey mood started when the Coroner’s Report landed in my letterbox, and although I’d been waiting for it since my husband Norbert died, reading this legal document forced me to re-live the day he was violently killed in a glider accident.  As if that wasn’t difficult enough to deal with, a couple of days later I was subjected to unwarranted verbal abuse by a very angry and misogynistic man (a complete stranger) which left me shaky and upset.  Then a couple of days later, the calendar turned over and it was my/our wedding anniversary – an important milestone and one I will always have to remember alone.

I could feel my carefully constructed ‘OK-ness’ crumbling as I struggled to deal with one blow after another.  Little things that I had previously been strong enough to deal with, all of a sudden became insurmountable again. My carefully built up ‘armour’ was developing cracks and fissures.

I am also supporting others through their own traumas, and while this is something that is very important to me and part of who I am, it does require me to be emotionally ‘fit’. 

“Always fill your own cup first, and allow the world to benefit from the overflow”.

Me holding a cup

Over those few days my ‘cup’ was emptying faster than it was being re-filled, so taking my own advice from a recent post about self-care I told myself that I needed to take some time out and make ME a priority.  Refill the cup. Re-group. Get back on an even keel. So to speak. 🙂

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just turn off my phone, run a bubble bath and spend some time alone at home indulging in wine and chocolate.  Good question…a couple of easy answers! 🙂

Firstly, I’m a Type A personality so being at home is never an option for me as I get too bogged down in all my ‘to do’ lists and find it impossible to simple ‘turn off’. I try to sit and relax but my brain notices all the stuff I haven’t done. I nag myself. My husband used to tell me that I am “my own worst enemy”….and he was right!

Also, I felt I needed to be away from familiar surroundings in order to clear the cobwebs and be able to do some deep thinking and learn to adjust to all that had happened….and allow myself to emotionally heal.

So…the decision was…???


It was rather a quick decision but I decided I would just get in the car and see where I ended up, so I threw a few things into a small bag and drove out of town. Just like that.  It was empowering! I put the music on loud and sang along in my (very) toneless voice but there was nobody to hear me so I didn’t care.  I just wanted to loosen up and find my smile again.

After a while, and as I expected, thoughts ran around in my head and I just allowed my overactive brain free reign for a while. The miles passed under the tyres of the car and as the heavens finally opened, the swish-swish of the windscreen wipers created a rythmic sound that eased me into a calmness I hadn’t felt for a while. I got to thinking….

A grief journey is like any journey

I was driving along Highway 1….the main highway that runs around the coastline (mostly) of the Australian continent. You would think that as it is ‘Highway 1’ that it would be well maintained and driving would be relatively easy, but no…there are potholes and areas where flooding has damaged the road, and numerous twists and turns where one is constantly having to adjust speed.

My deep thinking at the time made me think that this was a good analogy for life in general.  Our life path is Highway 1 yet this isn’t an easy run either.  We think it will be when we are children and look ahead to ‘being a grown up’, but then we come across life’s potholes and have to slow up. We suffer loss and the road ahead appears damaged and rocky.

Unexpected events happen to us, like the truck driver that unexpectedly pulled out from a side-road right in front of me! I had to slam on the brakes and drop back into second gear! “What!!??  Did you not SEE me?????”  Grrrr….

Truck and rainbow

After that little event, I got to thinking that something like this is not unlike being yelled at by that horrible man a few days ago….it is unexpected, out of the blue, and causes you to say expletives that are not usually part of your vocabulary!  😉

At this point I was on a roll…

Sometimes life feels like it is so incredibly tedious and tiring….just like sitting right at the back of a looooong row of caravans (RV’s for my northern hemisphere readers).  This occurred more than once today as of course my spur-of-the-moment planning did not include checking if it was school holidays…which it is!  It felt like hours that I sat at the back of the convoy watching my speedo going ev-e-r   s–l–o–w—e—-r as the caravans crawled along the highway.

Being forced to slow up can be frustrating, but like in life, sometimes that frustration can lead you into dangerous situations. I crept out onto the opposite side of the road a few times today in a vain attempt to pass them, but the large trucks bearing down into my path soon had me swinging back to sit at the back of the queue again. [sigh] It’s a good lesson to take things slow though. It might be because you are meant to do just that, and ‘swinging out’ could prove dangerous.

Indulge me one last analogy 🙂

My journey had me slowing down quite often for roadworks on the road ahead, and for me, this felt like when I walked out to the letterbox last Friday and saw the letter from the Coroner’s Court. You’re careering down the road and everything is going to plan, when all of a sudden something unexpected occurs and you’re forced to take a detour. 

Well, I can tell you that this is exactly what happened, as I wouldn’t be sitting in a hotel room a long way from home now, if it were not for the chain of events that began with that letter.

Grief is a journey that is unique for all of us, and no two people travel the same road in the same way, but I read a quote recently that is so true:

“There’s a reason the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror. It’s because where you’re headed is more important than what is behind you.”

Rear view mirror

If I had spent too much time looking into this rear view mirror today, I would not be relaxing here right now with some lovely music playing and a glass of wine at my side.  To get here safely I had to focus on the rain-swept road in front of me, and be prepared to act quickly in case of unexpected events.  On occasion I glanced quickly behind me but they were only glances – my road is ahead.  In more ways than one.

It has been a tough few days and it has sent me running, but I can already feel my emotional strength growing and soon I will head back home. The journey will be over….but of course my grief journey will never be over.

“It has been said “Time heals all wounds”. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting it’s sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.

Rose Kennedy

There’s only one last thing – I could use your help.  Given my deep thinking about the road, grief and life, what is the analogy for my GPS?  😁

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

  • Lothar Ziemke says:

    Hi Marlene,
    Lokk, you are not the only one that has to grieve. I said it before, Life goes on, you hurt will NEVER subside even though people will tell you this, and they say we will be here for you….But when you need some one in your feeling of need how do you tell someone? Without being funny or rude or whatever, at least you were an adult when you lost your loved one! Your Pain threshold will get lower over the years, Yes you will still hurt, but you learn to deal with it! I was not even 16 in a totally strange country to me who did not speak my language when I physically had to get violent to get my mother transferred to another hospital to get “proper” medical attention, only to be told 2 hours later ” YOUR MOTHER DIED”. Sorry, can you explain what that means? I had NO idea!!! I lived over 100 Km away and a bus only travelled once a day. What do I do? where do I go to? This is a totally strange country to me. I had to cope. There was no one I could turn to…… some 7 years later I was issued with a summons for the funeral costs of my mother…..!!!!!! Some years later I was happily married, by that time I had learned most of the english language….. we were expecting our first child, which turned out to be twins.. whilst “playing Doctors” one night with the stethoscope, I could not hear a heart beet….my studies in the medical profession where not that advanced at that stage, and my wife miscarried the following day! I was greeted by the medical staff with ” we are sorry that you lost your twins”……. but would you have coped with them?? I will not tell you of how and what I felt, and again in those days there was no help for some one who had lost a baby. I might sound very ruff Marlene, but as I said you are not the only one who has lost some one you love….. I have also over the years lost foster children and my brother, so Marlene, start looking at yourself and start move on.

    • Marlene says:

      Everyone has their own grief journey. I am sharing mine to provide insight and increase understanding of what it means to grieve…my writings do not infer that my grief is more important than others. It would have been better if you had simply unsubscribed.

    • Amber says:

      This comment seemed unnecessary, Lothar. This isn’t a space to try out-do one person’s story and offer unsolicited advice. 🙄

  • Linda RIchardson says:

    You didn’t run, you took control, as your A-type personality does, to look after yourself xx

  • Mel B says:

    GPS … hmmmm. You invited comment so my take is perhaps this shows that even though you might be represented as a small red dot, you are still connected and therefore part of a much bigger picture xxxx

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