We’re going on a bear hunt.

We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

Uh-uh! Grass!
Long wavy grass.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

I can’t remember how many times I’ve read Michael Rosen’s enticing children’s adventure to one of my kids over the years. Watching them act out their favourite moments from swishy grass…

Swishy Swashy!
Swishy Swashy!
Swishy Swashy!

To the sploshing river…
Splash splosh!
Splash splosh!
Splash splosh!

Or hearing them join in the chorus as it appears on every page, predictably, joyously,

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

I’ve always loved it, and found it to be such an uplifting tale of adventure. Until the evening when a recently bereaved friend reached out for support over social media. Her simple words,
“Grief has come to punch me again”.

Squelch squelch!
Squelch squelch!
Squelch squelch!

Like most people my need was to help or fix. Could I conjure up words that she might not have heard a thousand times before? Something that could take away the unbearable pain she was feeling?
And again like most of us I was useless, bereft in the face of such a powerful emotion. And in need of finding her (or me) a way through it.

Uh-uh! A forest!
A big dark forest.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

I have felt it. I’ve been there. And platitudes and sorry- for- your losses and thinking-of-yous and the it- will- get- betters did nothing for my comfort nor my mind when I lost my father.
So often we fall on that easy list of acceptable grief pleasantries through no fault of our own. We aren’t taught how to talk to or to be with someone who is grieving. And we so desperately want to get it right when we do.

Stumble trip!
Stumble trip!
Stumble trip!

So instead of stumbling, we do what others do. Say what others say rather than take the risk.
But this risk is the risk to actually think about what the person is going through. Because to do so would be hard.

We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

So quick are we to help move others and ourselves through this most painful of processes because it is, just that, painful. Too painful to sit with. Too painful to witness. Too painful to accept.

Uh-uh! A snowstorm!
A swirling whirling snowstorm.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

So instead we try and go around it or over it. Anything to actually avoid having to go through it – or witness it in those we love.

Because while it does punch you in the face, it also sweeps you up like a storm, gently teases you to sleep or stares at you ghost like in the mirror.

Hoooo woooo!
Hoooo woooo!
Hoooo woooo!

But our own simple truth is, we have to go through it.
Without it we wouldn’t be able to explore our own universal truths about our grieving process. We wouldn’t be able to see the surprising nature of its reveal when it does.

Tiptoe!
Tiptoe!
Tiptoe!

We wouldn’t be able to see ourselves in our most raw, often reduced light.

WHAT’S THAT?
One shiny wet nose!
Two big furry ears!
Two big goggly eyes!
IT’S A BEAR!!!!

So Instead of reaching for the easy list of acceptable grief pleasantries, I found myself quoting Michael Rosen’s kid’s story.
Because within it lies not only the hope that drives us forward towards something bigger, brighter, more that what we see now, but the continual struggle to get there.

Back through the snowstorm!
Hoooo woooo! Hoooo woooo! Hoooo woooo!
Back through the forest!
Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!
Back through the mud!
Squelch squelch! Squelch squelch! Squelch squelch!
Back through the river!
Splash splosh! Splash splosh! Splash splosh!

But while we may and must stumble trip through our grief, we don’t have to do it alone. To sit and wait till help gets there (in whatever form that takes is one of the ways we can help it along its way. We can’t provide a short cut over or under, but we can just make it ok to plough on without the need to hurry it up.

Get to our front door.
Open the door.
Up the stairs.
Oh no!
We forgot to shut the door.
Back downstairs.

To feel deep loss is to know deep love.

To feel utterly helplessness is to know how to feel helped.

To feel alone is to know companionship

So while this journey isn’t one we would choose to take, and one we can never choose not to. We can help ourselves and others walk through it, not around it. Roll up our skirts and wade through the river, stumble through the forest and bring an extra coat for the snowstorm.

Shut the door.
Back upstairs.
Into the bedroom.
Into bed.
Under the covers.
We’re not going on a bear hunt again.