With less than 10 miles left in my 1,000 Miles challenge, I was excited about finishing the next day. Yes, I knew I could and would walk all the final miles. Not only was I eager to reach this goal, I was also ready to take a break from carrying so many stories.

But only a few hours later, life took one of those unexpected hard turns. My daughter-in-law texted to let me know she had to go to the doctor. What many people didn’t know publicly is that she was pregnant. Her first official appointment was set for the next day, and we were finally going to get to announce to the world our beautiful news. Now, though, things didn’t look good.

The heartbreaking news officially landed after 2 o’clock in the morning, after my son and daughter-in-law spent hours in the emergency room. Our family had been pacing the halls of our hearts the entire time, texting back and forth, waiting, praying, hoping. My imagination created a fantastical scenario that ended happily ever after, it’s all been a silly mistake, all is well!

All was not well, and we are heartbroken.

The world says “miscarriage,” but we now know that deeper and harder truth: we lost a baby. My son and his wife lost their first baby. I lost my grand-baby.

And the unfair part is, life goes on. I got up hours later, drank coffee, and wrote a check for the rent. I continued to pace in my heart and wonder what I could do to fix it all. But I know it’s not fixable. A mother cannot make this better, not matter how badly she wants to.

Leaving them to process on their own, as they requested, I went out and walked. I thought I’d just walk it off, finish this challenge quietly, and move on. I’d walk the pain, walk the stories, walk our new sad chapter, and then I’d figure out what came next.

After four miles, I returned and sat with my daughter as I shared everything with her. And then my younger son and daughter-in-law asked us to gather. Finally, my oldest asked me to come. I went, held them, listened, and stood strong. When others cry, I am the safe place to land; I don’t break down in that moment because I need to be strong.

The next day, I was set to meet up with a friend for coffee and everything in me screamed to cancel. I just wanted to sit at home and lay in bed. But I had already had to cancel on her before, and it seemed to take forever for us to make a meeting work, so I went. On the way, “Amazing Grace” came on the radio and I about lost my mind. You can only be strong in the face of pain for so long.

Meeting with my friend was actually a great source of comfort. And then I spent the rest of the day with my kids, talking more, breathing through the pain, walking a bit closer to acceptance and the journey of healing. In the sharp corners of hurt, we found moments to laugh, to hope, to wonder. In the moments alone, we think too much, and in the moments together, we try not to think. Neither is wrong; both work.

The following day, I needed to just finish the miles. I really needed to cry, to process, to raise my fists at the sky, to be thankful, to be angry, and to just keep moving forward. If the past 18 months had taught me anything, it’s that pain is inevitable, but staying down is not OK. And we all grieve and process our pain in different ways. My training in victim assistance and grief has taught me that there is no wrong way to deal, and I knew this from my past, but it was helpful to learn it officially (and in counseling). You put one foot in front of the other, and you go. And that’s what I did as I finished the 1,000 – I literally put one foot in front of the other.

Finishing the miles during these days following the most pain we’ve experienced in our family was not easy, but it was necessary. It was necessary for me not to spiral, and it was necessary for me so that I could step back patiently and wait for their lead, let them handle the telling or the not telling however they needed to. And it was necessary because this is hard, but we can do hard things.

We are not without hope, but for now, I am just sad. I wanted to go to church today, but instead I sat down to write, to pour out my sadness, because I don’t think I can put on the smile and pretend one more day like I am just OK and just so happy, because I’m not. My first baby was going to have his first baby, and now he is heartbroken. And I can’t kiss his boo-boo and put a bandaid on it and make it all better.

So, while I finished a great big goal I set, and I posted about it because it needed to be shared, I have not spent much time enjoying the achievement. I went through the “I’m fine” motions, and now I just want to acknowledge what we all know: we are not fine. We will be better, but for now, we are not fine. And sometimes, it’s OK to be not fine.

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  • Christine Rae Higdem - “And sometimes, it’s OK to be not fine.” That line resonates within me like a howling wind! It took me decades to realize that the grief over my losses was acceptable. “Fine” was always my go-to answer, but now I realize that a true friend doesn’t want the boilerplate when they ask, and it is okay to open the release valve occasionally!ReplyCancel

  • Mysti Guymon-Reutlinger - My deepest, most sincere love and support goes out to all of you. The pain is real, devastating and so difficult to explain in words. You are all allowed to be not fine for as long as necessary while you continue to place one foot in front of the other.ReplyCancel

I lean back against my husband. My knees won’t stop shaking. I know part of it is from the climb, that my muscles are protesting the early morning hike and then the climb up and down rocks, but most of it is fear. Deep, “run away” fear.

“Do you want me to go first?” he asks.

“Yes. No. Wait. If you go first, you won’t be here to stop me from backing out. I’ll go.”

I look down at the water again, and then out at my daughter. Without my glasses, I can’t see her clearly, but I can see her arm is raised. Thumbs up. You can do this. OK, I can do this.

“I’m scared,” I say.

“I know.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I think everyone’s looking at me.”

“They are.”

And then I turn into Miss One-Liner Motivational Woman.

“I can do hard things.”

“Yes you can.”

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

“Sure!”

“It’s just a leap of faith.”

“Yup!”

Another deep breath. I count off on my fingers to three. I lean forward. And I stop again.

Nope. Not yet.

“I will jump,” I say to my husband, but really to myself.

“I know you will.”

“It’s not that far.”

“You can do this.”

“I can do this.”

And then, pushing aside every single scrap of fear, everything that could go wrong, I do it. I jump. I close my eyes and plug my nose, but I jump.

Angela is Brave by Angela Giles Klocke

{Photos by The Girl}

As they say, bravery is not the absence of fear. It’s feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And as I climbed out of the water after my big jump, I was reminded of how many times in my almost 40 years I’ve lived brave and jumped off of cliffs made of hard choices and scary ideas.

And I want to keep doing it.

I was the first girl — ahem, woman — to jump off the cliff into the water, and one of the first of the day, so almost immediately, several guys made their way up the hill to jump too.

Sometimes you need someone else to go first.

Sometimes you need bravery to be acted out for you so you can be brave too. So many have paved the way for me, encouraging me as I’ve stepped up to jump, and I hope that I am able to keep doing the same.

Shortly after my jump, my daughter made the climb. She stood beside her dad and had a very similar conversation, I’m sure. And I watched and waited for her to jump. Then others started to cheer for her all the way through her jump. She was scared, but she wasn’t alone. Courage doesn’t stand alone; courage doesn’t jump alone.

The Girl is Brave by Angela Giles Klocke

To be brave, we stand together, we cheer each other on, and we love. Going into the next 40 years of my life, I hope I can be an example of what it means to be brave, even in the hardest of times, not just the times that are fun and make for good status updates.

Let us be brave together.

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