The Way You Know: Finding the Way through Grief

In Memory of Laura Newton

Winding road

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a bad sense of direction, and Laura, more than anyone, would help me get to where I was going. Sometimes after our monthly girlfriends’ get-togethers she’d sit with me and patiently talk me through the directions for getting home. And once, on the way to a meeting at her house, I called her in tears and told her that I couldn’t find the place, and she said, “Stay where you are, I’ll come and get you.” And sometimes after a meeting, when I didn’t know how to get back to the main road, she’d say, “You can follow me.”Sometimes I lied to her and told her that I knew the way—I was so embarrassed, I mean, two master’s degrees and I can’t even find my way out of a walk-in closet. So I’d tell her that I knew the way and was always relieved when she didn’t believe me and gave me directions anyway, just in case.

The last time she tried to help me find my way home, I assured her that I knew the way; I was telling her the truth this time and she knew it, and she said, “But there’s a quicker way. Let me tell you a short cut.” And she tried to explain it to me, but my eyes glazed over and she finally said, “That’s okay, just go the way you know.”

Laura, please give me directions one more time. Tell me how to find my way out of the grief I’m feeling over losing you.

I lie in the dark and count the people I’ve lost: my father, dead at age 49, of a heart attack; friends, Maggie, alcoholism, and John, lung cancer; niece and nephew, born too soon, too fragile; my friend Juanita; a dear grandfather, a favorite aunt and uncle.

Each time I wrote my way through the grief and back to some semblance of perspective and peace. Each time I lit a candle and said their names and wept for the lives lost—or maybe, the lives gone on ahead that I might follow some day—and each time I reaffirmed the precious gift of my own life, and cherished my remaining family and friends even more. And today I cry, “Laura, I can’t find my way out of the pain of losing you!” And she answers, “That’s okay, just go the way you know.”