Twenty-plus women walked in silence through a labyrinth. In their hands they carried burdens – stones of various sizes – representing something they wanted to let go of: anger, shame, resentment, an event that could not be changed. As one of the leaders of the Redefining Loss to Live Wholeheartedly retreat, I stood on the outside of the circle, moved at the meditation taking place.  

But this story is not about them. It’s about the transformation that happened for me in that moment.  

Grief has gifts for us if we let it teach us. It took some distance from the raw days of early loss to see that. It clarified my priorities. Grief asked the question, “Are you willing to be unsatisfied with your work now? Still?” As I watched the women walking their own path but supporting each other with silent compassion, I understood that I was finally living my calling: offering supportive care, teaching, using my creative talents.  

New friends and deepened relationships with existing friends is another unexpected blessing. The last woman waiting to enter the labyrinth is a new friend; someone brought to me by the work she did with my husband. Beyond her stands my co-leader for the retreat, an angel who cared for us during Ken’s illness and for me long after. We went through our independent grief journeys as empathetic witnesses for each other. Our conversations showed me that though our losses were different we experienced similar emotions. We could listen to each other in our grief with understanding and without comparing losses. 

As the three of us stood there within arm’s reach of each other a moment of serendipity occurred. A hawk streaked through the center of the labyrinth at tree top level loudly shrieking in contrast to our silence. My “Did you see that?!” eyes met those of my friends who knew exactly what that hawk meant to me.  

Hawks are a strong symbol for me since my husband’s death. Their sightings in my life have increased.  Maybe their numbers have grown in our area. Maybe I look up more now. My intuition tells me to pay attention and not dismiss these sightings. A hawk soars over my son’s Lacrosse game. At my daughter’s high school graduation, two hawks perch on the building facing the graduates. The sightings are numerous, almost weekly.  

But this weekend was special.  As I packed my gear to leave for the retreat a kingly red tailed hawk surveyed my activity from the tree above. And now, another red tailed hawk breaks the peace to ensure his presence is known and that we are all paying attention.  

Looking back at the labyrinth before we walked away from it I realized I didn’t have to wander through it with my own symbol of burden. There is one I have been carrying: the ability to trust my instincts. I could feel it falling away. 

“All you have to do is to pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready, and if you can read the signs, you will learn everything you need to know in order to take the next step.”

~ Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

Red shouldered hawk photo by Chuck Hancock in Decatur, GA (Nov 2010)


This month I’m participating in a blog hop with fellow widows/widowers.  I encourage you to enjoy these other blogs and leave them a comment or two:

Samantha of the Crazy Courage blog
Janine of One Breath At A Time
Red’s The M3 Blog
Becky’s Choosing Grace Today
Marriott of Miracles and Answers to the Prayers in the Life of Marriott Cole
Christine of Widow Island
Robin of The Fresh Widow
Tim’s Diary of a Widower
Running Forward: Abel Keogh’s Blog
Carolyn at Modern Widow’s Club
Hello Grief
Andrea of International Brotherhood of Single Mothers
Tamara of Artful Living After Loss
Jessica at Buttons to Beans
Anne – Missing Bobby: A Widow’s Journey
The Grief Toolbox