It’s been a long 11 months. One mountain climbed and when you get to a peak there is another one right behind it. It’s overwhelming at first. You take a deep breath and head to the depths and get lost in the despair. Some mountains are smaller and steady, and some take your breath away with their intimidating heights and narrow switchbacks.

When you fall back down and look up again you are so exhausted but pick yourself up, pack up all the tools you used from the previous mountain, and start moving. One step at a time.

That is grief.

On your journey, you ask yourself why her. Again and again. Guess what? Somewhere on that journey, you will understand that even if you had that answer it would never be good enough. You still won’t like it.

Ever.

Keep moving. You’ve got this. Get to a rest stop.

Give yourself the love she did. Feel it. Breathe in the best moments and exhale the worst. Prepare yourself for the long hike. Pack the best parts for the rest of your journey. Each step you get closer to your final destination.

Heaven.

With her. 

Try to get to know God. With Him, you are never, ever alone. He has her and to know Him is to be closer to her. Talk to Him. He knows. Stay on the path He selected for you. There will be joy around another bend, but you have to keep going to find it.

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Remember to find beauty on the way. Look around. Smile at the wonders this world still has to offer.

You are her legacy by the way. Take her with you. Talk to her.

Unpack the heavy things from your pack. They make your hike harder and more strenuous. Leave guilt at the bottom of that mountain. You can’t go up with something so heavy pulling you back and making your footing unsteady. Unpack the word “should” from your vocabulary. It’s too heavy, and you don’t need that now to get where you need to be.

There are days when it will be hard to get up. Give yourself grace. You have been through a lot. Go to a rest stop and just be.

Feel that sunshine on your face. That is her cheering you on one step at a time. She knows you are getting closer to her each day and is smiling because you are. Keep going. Keep a picture of her looking happy and healthy with you. Look at it often. She is there with you. Remember her at her best.

Keep going. There will be dark valleys and storms to go through. One foot at a time. Don’t look back. You aren’t going that way. See the sunrise off into the distance? A new day. Even if you don’t see the progress it doesn’t mean you aren’t improving. See, each day you are learning how to cope, which helps you to get the next high part of the summit.

Keep going!

When you get lost, don’t forget to ask for directions. There are people who walked this path before you.

Talk to them. They spent time in those dark, cold parts of the trail, and they will act as your compass to help you find a way out for now.

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You will need flashlights. These are the people who are with you in the dark and offer light when you need it the most. When the thunder rumbles in the distance and you see the dark clouds roll in, reach for a flashlight. Keep them close. You will need them at nightfall when things seem the most uncertain.

Live in the present. Drink it in. Here and now is the only thing that exists. Get yourself to a scenic lookout. It’s simply amazing how far you have come. You are doing it. Give yourself some love for that. Every day you are getting stronger and the storms are getting chased away by the sunshine a little faster.

Or maybe you don’t notice how uncomfortable the rain is anymore because it happens, but it doesn’t mean you can’t splash in those puddles. Imagine your mom laughing just like she did when you were little. Splashing in the puddles in your rain boots. She is holding your hand. Pulling you forward but allowing you to learn things for yourself like she always did.

Sometimes you have to fall down and dust yourself off. She taught you this. Apply it.

Keep going through the uneven trails, getting stuck in the mud and painful thorny patches. It happens. Keep moving. Climb and see. Climb and reflect. Climb and cry. It’s OK. You’ve got this. You have done it before. Slow and steady. Even when it’s uncomfortable and the sadness seeps in, get to a rest stop and sit with it. Your mom is sitting there with you. She is closer than you ever thought possible and she won’t leave your side. Her hand on yours.

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Breathe in and get up. Dust yourself off as you did before, pack up those coping essentials, and keep moving. When you get yourself to that glorious top, look around. See those valleys? You were there. See those dark shadows? You were there. See yourself now? You are here because of there.

You are stronger than you think darling. Yep, there is another mountain in the distance, but it is beautiful because of the valleys, twists, turns, shadows, and sunlight. You have come this far. You will do it again until you meet her again. You can do it.

Embrace the climb.

Kristie Reitz

I am a mom of 3 kids and a teacher of the visually impaired in Cranberry Twp, PA.