Paula Reid-Smart writes about being lost and finding help on the grief journey.

I felt like I was driving along a road on a journey not planned.

The road was marked with potholes and hazards, hills to climb and valleys that I would descend into with little or no warning, not knowing if I would ever emerge and all the time knowing I could not go back.

There were wooded very dark areas where I could not see, blind corners where I did not know what lay ahead. I arrived at crossroads not knowing which way to turn. The desolate roads I travelled on made me feel alone and lonely suddenly turned into busy, noisy overwhelming streets where strangely no one even noticed I was there. I came upon traffic lights stuck on red and I realised I was lost.

As I sat there not knowing where to turn or head to, a kind, friendly face came along and offered to sit alongside me on my journey. They said that they had been this way before and had found it so very hard to navigate. However, when the road for them had become a little more familiar and easier to follow, they had chosen to go back and help and guide someone else who was further back on that road, because they knew what a tough journey it was.

They travelled with me, often in silence, but just knowing I was not alone somehow made me feel safe. They sometimes encouraged my progress and at other times would share how they had navigated these tricky roads.

Never once did they offer to drive for they said that was something only I could do. They helped me to know when it was time to pull over and take a break and rest, for this journey was exhausting.

Sometimes we would sit on the side of the road together and look back at where we had come from, agreeing that although the hills were hard to climb at times, there had been some beautiful views from the top where I had glimpsed hope.

My companion had made my journey easier and had changed my path. The roads were the same but they knew where the dangers were and how to navigate those roads that had sheer drops that I could have easily fallen down. I felt more in control and that I could progress my journey at my own pace. They too had once been in this place.

After a time we stopped for a rest and my companion said that they would no longer sit with me on my journey as I did not need them any longer, but they would not be far away if I needed them again. I was a little anxious, but knew that I had learnt so much from them.

As I waved to them as they went off on their way ahead of me, a surprising thing happened ….I turned around and looked back from where I had come with a new and different perspective. I knew that I could now carry on with this different journey with a new and changed perspective, with renewed strength and confidence.

It was at this moment that I decided to go back a little way, to roads that were now familiar. I decided to offer to accompany someone whose journey had begun after mine. I knew that I too could now help someone else to navigate their journey.

It would have been easier to just go on as it was getting easier for me, but I knew that there was someone else out there who needed me, just as I had needed someone before.

I knew I could be a “journey changer” too!

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