Copyright Nik Bonkoski 2019

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Finding your way out of the desert of grief

The only way out is through.

If you had told me this when my husband died in 2015, I would have walked away from you. I didn't want to hear that the only way out is through. I didn't want to hear that I had to go through the painful emotions to get to my healing. I didn't want to accept that pain is apart of life.

The only way out is through.

When my husband died I was lost. I felt like he dropped me off in the desert and never returned. All I had was a rusty bottle of water and an old compass to find my way back to my heart, to my soul, to my healing. I was angry that he left me in that desert with no map to find my way easily out of there. Only now over two years later do I understand that I didn't need a map. The map was in my own soul. I found my way out of that desert and the only way out was through.

Yes, I still have grief. I will grieve the loss of my husband for the rest of my days here on earth. I will see pictures of our life and feel a pain in my heart even though to others standing in the room looking at the picture with me.....I smile. I will miss his laugher forever. I will feel the pain of our children missing him every single day of my life. Yes, I still have grief but I'm not standing in that desert anymore.

The only way out is through.

In that desert of grief I felt anger.

In that desert of grief I felt abandoned. I felt lonely. I felt depressed. I felt anxious. I felt stressed. I felt shock. I felt unworthiness. I felt denial. I felt lost. So lost. Losing him was like losing my arm, or my leg, or half of my own self. I didn't know how to step forward without him. I didn't know how to do life without him. I couldn't see into the next day without him.

In the beginning of my grief I wanted desperately for my harsh emotions to just go away. I didn't care how. I just wanted them gone. Just sitting on the couch at 9:00pm at night was pure raging agony. If you looked in the window to my home and seen me it would have either broken your heart because I was crying so hard or you would have thought I was "fine" because I was just sitting there staring at the wall. What was I really doing? Screaming out on the inside to my husband. Demanding that he send me some sign that he still loved me. Pleading with him to flicker a light, or make my phone ring, or ultimately to just walk through the door as a human or as a ghost. It didn't matter. I didn't know how to live without him and there were moments, so many moments, that I didn't want to find out how.

I had to go through those days of sitting in my old pajamas, holding his clothes in my lap, and crying till I thought I would dry up. I had to go through those nights of feeling so lonely and not sleeping...sitting in my basement screaming at the horror of it all. I had to let those emotions escape my heart before I could find my way out of that desert. Those rough days were a part of the pathway out. And it was hard. And it was so painful I could hardly breathe. And I had such awful PTSD that sometimes I would have to pull my car to the side of the road and just sit there for a few minutes until it passed. And I had to sit at his grave and weep for the man that had my heart because that was the way that I was going to make it out of that desert. By fulling honoring where I was at each moment even if it was hard...even if it was painful. Honor where you are and it will aid in you moving forward out of the desert.

The only way out is through.

Our emotions are our teachers. Of course we feel pain and sadness and grief after we lose someone we love. Would we want to feel nothing? Of course not. The beginning of grief is rough. I bought piles, piles of books on grief and no one book healed me. I spoke with pastors, spiritual mentors, and other grievers and that didn't fully heal me either. I am not nor do I believe I ever will be ever fully healed. I am not broken. I am still here. I am still alive. I have made it through that desert and back to my life's path. A new path, yes. A different path, yes. But my true path all the same. The big emotions that I experienced in that desert have calmed. I no longer feel lost. I no longer don't know which way to turn. I can hear my late husband always telling me...."That's the way, Nik. Follow the signs, Nik. That person that emailed you or that thing you want to write about or that grief work you feel called to do? Follow it, Nik. It's your purpose. It's your path." You see...our loved ones on the other side are not gone. They are very much here with us guiding us along the way of our lives. My late husband put me in that desert. He drove me there in his little red Chevy Aveo car and dropped me off with only a rusty bottle of water and a compass. He didn't say goodbye or even turn around and wave when he drove away into the dust. But what I didn't know that first day was that he would guide me out of the desert but I had to listen to my heart, to my soul, to my gut because that was where I would find his map.

The only way out is through.

I know that when you are in the early days of grief.......when you feel like you are in that desert and you will just waste away and blow off on the wind and no one will care and maybe you don't even care..........I know that you don't want to hear that you have to walk through that desert to get to some healing. I didn't want to hear that either but I"m here to be honest with you and tell you my truth of how I got to where I am today. Feel your emotions. Take good care of yourself. Rest. Drink water. Distance yourself from negativity and from people who don't aid in your healing. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself no matter what others might say. I often ran away. I often talked about moving to another state. I didn't talk to friends. I stopped doing things that I used to love to do. And all of that was necessary for me to make it out of that desert. And yes, people ask me all the time "Nik, my husband just died. When will I feel better? Soon?" And I'm honest. It might not be soon. It might take you a few weeks, a few months, a couple of years to make it out of that desert but that's ok. You will make it out. You will learn along the way. You will find your new path. That one rusty bottle of water will be enough if you learn to rest.

Your compass? Your compass is your own heart. Your own soul. Your own intuition. And your compass is also hearing others stories of grief, trauma, tragedy and how they made it out of the desert of grief. Your compass is your loved one in the beyond. Follow their signs. They are guiding you out becuase they still love you. Love never dies.

You will make it out. You will always have grief in your heart and you will always miss your loved one. You will also be ok and move forward and have joy again. Your path might change and you might lose some people along the way who don't like who you are now but that's ok too. It's all apart of life. Dig deep for your self-love. It will help you so much along the way.

Reach out if you need additional support. You are never truly alone. There are people out there who care. Friend, I've been in that desert and I care.....All my love, Nik