Monday Meditation: Persevering

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”

-Walter Elliot

Grief isn’t just one experience that hangs out for a bit and then disappears. Grief is a very long road broken up into shorter segments that piggyback onto one another for the remainder of a griever’s life.

Outsiders often mistake grief for a one-and-done experience: someone dies, you get sad, you deal with it, you’re done with it, you move on, end of grief. This is just so wrong.

The continual renewal of grief is what makes it an exhausting and life-transforming experience. One episode comes, exists, and recedes, then the next episode comes, exists, and recedes. The problem is that each episode of grief isn’t the same: it doesn’t carry the same emotional weight, mental load, sadness or anger or frustration…everything changes all the time. There is no way to assess how weighty and exhausting this episode will be or how weighty and exhausting the next episode will be.

We can speak about grief in terms of “survival,” as there certainly is an aspect of surviving the difficulties that fall on grievers. We can talk of “thriving” despite grieving, the ability for grievers to reassemble the pieces of life in a new way and succeed in reaching new goals. However, we may forget the role “perseverance” plays in the grief journey.

Perseverance is the drive to continue on despite delays, failures, struggles, opposition, etc.

You can survive without perseverance. You don’t have to be motivated to move through struggles to survive. You just have to exist. But we can’t discuss thriving alongside grief without acknowledging the motivation it takes to collect the shards of life, create a brand new mosaic from the pieces, set new goals, and succeed in reaching them.

Perseverance is hard. Terrifically hard. Especially if we think of it as a long race that needs to be run with consistent endurance.

What if we think of it as a series of short races? What if we can take breaks between those races to recover and strategize a game plan for running the next segment? What if we can replenish ourselves in between races, sleep better and eat well, and bulk up for the next stretch?

It’s okay to need a break between bouts of grief. It’s okay to spend a week recovering from a difficult holiday or an emotional ambush, or a triggering life event. It’s okay to need comfort before getting back on the road. It’s okay to change your mind and take a new route to get somewhere or to speed-walk instead of sprinting your way through one part of the journey. Knowing when you need to rest to recover your strength takes strength.

Perseverance isn’t about going at a breakneck pace, never complaining, never getting frustrated, and never sweating big or small things.

Perseverance is about the ability to keep going. And that’s all. Just keep going at your own pace.

Rest when you need. But keep marching on one day at a time.

Photo by Orest Sv on

Published by ancarroll

Alexandra N. Carroll is an author, grief advocate, crafter, mother, and partner. She writes on grief and self-care from her home in Vermont. Her forthcoming book concerns how to untangle life-after-loss through the creation of a strong self-care plan.

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