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Finding One's Way After Loss
Grief Journey, Losing a Child

Finding One’s Way After Loss

My son Tandi was 15 1/2 when he took his life almost 5 years ago. I can relate to the pain that parents feel on so many levels.

I want to tell a story about hope and feeling lost. About 15 years ago I was hunting in Idaho by myself. I had hunted the area for 30+ years and knew it well, but late in the afternoon, I realized I was a long way from nowhere and better start heading for the nearest road or it would get dark and I would have trouble finding my way out.

As evening drew closer, I was still WAY back in the sticks. I realized I wasn’t going to get out before dark, but I wasn’t worried because I knew where I was and where I needed to go. I sat down, took my pack off, dug out my headlamp, and watched the sun disappear, knowing I was a mile, maybe 2 miles from camp.

I knew exactly where I was.

As it got dark I flicked on my headlamp and started hoofing my way out. I was confident, but it is odd how small your world gets when you can only see as far ahead of you as your headlamp will shine. The easiest way out was to sidehill for a half-mile or so to a trail I knew and then hike out that trail. I hoofed and hiked and hoofed and hiked. And nothing was familiar. Nothing looked right. The trees all looked different. Meadows I KNEW were there were nowhere to be found. And I could not find the trail I KNEW was there.

It suddenly occurred to me: “I am lost!”

I sat down in the dark to decide whether to spend a cold night in the woods or try to find my way out. And then it occurred to me – in this part of Idaho there is only one river. Every stream runs into that river and camp was on the road running up the river. I didn’t know exactly where I was, but I wasn’t lost! All I had to do was get into a creek bottom and follow it to the river.

That was a LONG night. Hiking out a brushy, steep, dark, wet, and cold creek bottom was not an easy way to get home. I got poked in the eye with a stick, I stumbled many times and banged myself up, but sometime after 1 AM, I stumbled into camp – tired, bruised, wet, cold, and hungry – but nonetheless home.

Years later, after Tandi died, the lesson was driven home again. My boy died and I thought I was lost. But there have been streams that lead me to the river in this experience too. Certainly not the easiest way to find my way. I stumbled many times. My hands and knees are skinned up. Sometimes I feel like I got poked in the eye by life. Sometimes I wanted to just give up, lay down, and wait for something better to come along. But my streams have indeed helped me find the river that leads me to camp.

What are your anchors? What are your streams – those things and those people who never change? No matter how dark, no matter how dim your headlamp may seem, there ARE streams that lead to the healing river.

Healing to me is about finding your “knowns” again and following them. You may not know exactly where you are right now…but you’re not lost. Find your stream and follow it.

About the Author

Wisdom From Our Community

"Wisdom From Our Community" posts originally appeared on the Alliance of Hope Forum for Suicide Loss Survivors and are reprinted with the permission of the authors. Our online forum transcends time and distance, offering a culture of kindness, hope, and understanding to people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Operating like a 24/7 support group, our forum is supervised by a mental health professional and moderated by a trained team of loss survivors. Members can read and comment, share their stories, and connect with other suicide loss survivors.Read More »