Tag Archives: prayer

Look around, look up and look forward


There are a number of traffic diversions in place locally at the moment, the main one being due to planned major works in the centre of town.  Two other unanticipated events (a burst water main and a sudden sinkhole) have temporarily closed local roads.  This is inevitably causing havoc and adding significantly to overall journey times.  Although I know our area quite well, I have been surprised to find that the diversion routes quickly take me into unfamiliar territory.

There is a need to trust in each diversion route and know that it will eventually get me to my destination.

This is an example of faith in action that I am happy to embrace.  It reminds me that at times, you have to be able to trust in that which you cannot see to achieve whatever you have set out to do.

During the week I thought I would try to figure out my own route to work avoiding the worst of the traffic.  But by turning left instead of right at an unfamiliar junction, I soon found myself going in the wrong direction.  I felt rather silly; how could I get lost on my way to work?!  – but I trusted my internal Satnav’s sense of direction, found the right road and was back on track again.

Once again, I was guided by something I could not see but I knew was there.

Tying in with this, I recently heard an inspirational talk on ‘looking around, looking up and looking forward’.  The premise of this was to show how, even when we think we are entirely alone, if we seek and ask for help, we will be aided in times of hardship, and  also rewarded in ways that we cannot anticipate.

As an example of looking forward, if you are running a marathon, your aim is to reach the finishing line.  As you approach the final straight you will see and hear all the spectators urging you on, willing you to do your very best to get to the end, within the time parameters that you are likely to have set yourself.  How encouraging they are!

But try to look beyond the finishing line.  Think about how much has been contributed to your taking part in that race in the first place.  You will have been driven by your own ambition and commitment to training, but generally speaking, no-one enters a marathon purely for themselves.  You will have been inspired by something or someone – to run with perseverance, to look forward and be uplifted and supported from beyond the finishing line.

Allowing yourself to have both vision and trust means that you can tap into what is ‘out there’ if you look for it.

Returning to the diversion theme, I had a horrible situation a few days ago when I was driving home in Shaun’s car, which is larger than my own.  Traffic was diverted away from a roundabout I would usually cross, sending me along a relatively narrow road.  As I approached a bend, I encountered a large articulated lorry coming the other way.  We both slowed down our vehicles, but as the driver tried to bring the lorry past me, we realised that the narrowest point and angle of the bend would not allow his long vehicle to pass.  I tried to pull up onto the verge on the left, but this was made difficult by the presence of bollards and there was not enough space to manoeuvre.

The lorry inched forward and the angle meant it was getting closer and closer to my car until it was almost touching my wing mirror.

I felt entirely trapped, unable to go forward or backwards.

We had reached an impasse.

I felt as though I was in the eye of a storm as other cars backed up in both directions, waiting for someone to move.  The lead car from the other direction was behind the lorry and unable to see the situation that existed on the bend.

I looked upwards to the heavens for inspiration. 

I looked all around me for a way round the problem, but found nothing. 

I tried to visualise looking forward beyond the finish line.

Strangely, I felt calm enough; I was not panicking but could not imagine how the situation could be resolved.  I opened the car window and called out,

“Can someone please help me?  I just don’t know what to do”.

Nothing happened.  I could hear vehicle horns as people became impatient, but I could not do anything.  I sat and waited for something … anything. … to happen.

A few moments later a cyclist came into view from the opposite direction.  He quickly summed up what had happened and called out to me,

“Don’t worry, I will guide you forward”.  I was so relieved!

I kept my eyes firmly on the cyclist, watching and trusting his judgement as he assessed the width of the space available on either side of the car, and he waved me forward.  Eventually, (although it felt like ages, it was probably only a minute or so), my car was clear of the lorry.  I thanked my Good Samaritan, a charming gentleman, whom had appeared just at the right time.  He agreed with me that the lorry driver should have stopped before the bend to let my car pass.  This would have entirely avoided the incident.

I drove off, shaken by the unpleasantly close shave but so grateful for the manifestation of this particular guardian angel, just at the right time in the right place, and in answer to my prayer for help.

Perhaps diversions that result in proof of the power of looking around, upwards and forwards, are not so bad, after all.

oak tree


Hippy Birthday


11 September is a sad anniversary for many. On a personal level, it was a particularly significant day for us this year as it marked James’ thirtieth birthday; it seems impossible that we have lived through eleven birthdays without him being here to share them. The birthday date each year brings to mind happier times and it is undoubtedly a much easier day to get through than the July anniversary of his passing.

It was a strange day this time round, as I was in hospital on the first postoperative day after a total hip replacement. Any of the usual small rituals associated with James’ birthday, such as lighting a candle for him, were not easily achievable. Instead, when I was not focusing on clearing the post-operative brain fog and processing my feelings around the procedure I had just undergone, I dipped in and out of Facebook on my phone. A few days earlier, I uploaded a series of photos of James taken over the years and it was heartening and comforting to read people’s kind comments and good wishes, both for his birthday and my recovery.

I began to consider whether there were parallels between my surgery and the grief path, which sounds rather indiscriminate, but it is a favourite game of mine to play ‘match up’.

Measuring other events against loss and grief can often offer a new perspective for processing them.

Breaking it down to the simplest level, both the loss of James and my hip replacement mean that something has been taken away from me, to be replaced by something else.                                  In the case of my hip, a part of my self has been taken out and discarded as no longer functional. It has been exchanged for something new and shiny that works properly.

Can the same be said of the loss of my son?                                                                                   No, of course not! – there is no comparison.

A part of my self was indeed lost the day that James died, but with what has it been replaced?

We can never replace lost children.

BUT the gap left by his no longer being here has gradually been filled, over time, with a new sense of being, a new sense of hope, a new sense of living and a new sense of purpose. To this end, I ‘work properly’, albeit in a different way.

An enormous difference between my hip replacement and the loss of James is that my surgery was planned and anticipated, his passing was most certainly not.                                                             Thus the shock and trauma of loss is an element which has no comparison with planned surgery.

I turned to word clouds to better express the links between the two concepts: there is great

fun to be had at www.wordle.net if you are minded to play around with the written word.

This is not an exhaustive list, but all the same it can be seen that most of the words appear in both HIP and GRIEF word clouds. The exceptions relate to the unexpected nature and timing of loss, which is neither chosen nor controlled.

wordle2hip     griefwordle1

Anticipated events can be prepared for and researched. Fear of the unknown may be reduced with the acquisition of knowledge and an idea of what is to come. This cannot be said of sudden loss – by its nature it will instil a deeply profound, traumatic shock to the system, and even after a decade of living with that shock, I am still aware of its reverberations if something happens to trigger memories of the early days of grief.

The regret associated with loss is permanent; whereas the regret I felt for the necessity for surgery has been transient.

Control is an important concept to me. I enjoy an orderly existence and prefer to plan for events. When they are thrust upon me, this engenders a certain level of fear and uncertainty – hence I dreaded my spinal anaesthetic prior to surgery but in reality it was better than anticipated. The uncontrolled nature of loss and grief, when all my terms of reference were swept away from me in an instant, means that a long recovery road followed for me to be able to get back on track and feel as though I was in relative control of all aspects of my life. I am often reminded of C S Lewis’ quote from A Grief Observed: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear”. Being forced to get to know grief when it is thrust upon you does have the effect of reducing the fear.

Pain is difficult to quantify as we all live with degrees of physical, mental and emotional pain. For me, the removal of the physical pain associated with my hip has been miraculous and instant, a real life-changer for the better. The same cannot be said of the pain associated with grief and loss. This is an underlying, permanent, pervasive level of pain, with which anyone who is bereaved has to learn to live.

When I was in hospital, the medical staff were fond of asking, “How would you rate your pain on a scale of one to ten?” My scale did not rise above a seven, and painkillers were appropriately issued to keep me comfortable during the early recovery phase. But when it comes to grief, the pain score will be right off the scale at first, and today I would rate my grief pain score at two to three. This reduction has been a slow, gradual process, and it has been aided not by physical painkillers, but by the positive attributes in my word clouds. Accepting the presence of a constant low level of pain as a given has become almost second nature.

It is clear to me that having faith in my own ability to heal both physically and mentally – with a great deal of help from outside my self – is a massive stride towards a proactive recovery whether it is from loss, or surgery, or a combination of both.

It is achievable, yes, but no one ever said it would be easy!