Light at the End of a Tunnel of Grief

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York Photoshops the light at the end of the tunnel of grief.Online grief counselors say, “Embrace your pain,” “Face the loss,” … “Make friends with the heartache.” Meanwhile, today a friend politely pointed out, “There are different patterns to get over the loss of someone” and “You need to stop all this grieving and be happy.”

I am kind of happy. Life is good, except for my daughter dying. Until this afternoon I had no idea I was particularly unhappy or stuck, lost in a forest of grief.

I see grief as a bridge or tunnel connecting each sorrow forward to peace. Grief is a journey. Maybe a long journey, as some days the tunnel seems endless. One has to walk through the tunnel, carrying the pain like it’s a small child who needs to be rocked to sleep. The ache awakens at times. Sometimes suddenly. You stumble backwards. You whimper. You wail. Then regain your footing and continue the rhythm of your step. And as you traipse on, you notice there are countless minuscule cracks of light and color in the tunnel, where joy seeps through.

If you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, your hope grows more slowly as you learn to maneuver in the darkness. But you love that tunnel, even only dimly lit, because it is still your connection to peace.


In difficult times, what has your connection to peace been?


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14 thoughts on “Light at the End of a Tunnel of Grief

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Thanks for this delicious piece, Robin. I posted it on my FB page yesterday. I particularly loved the image of grief as a child we must carry to safety. This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke which comes to mind:

    Rilke: Pushing Through

    It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
    in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
    I am such a long way in I see no way through,
    and no space: everything is close to my face,
    and everything close to my face is stone.

    I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
    so this massive darkness makes me small.
    You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
    then your great transforming will happen to me,
    and my great grief cry will happen to you.

    Rainer Maria Rilke
    (Translated by Robert Bly)

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I love it, Elaine. You have the best Rilke and Rumi poems. It helps to hear “my great grief cry” echoed in the works of others. Thank you.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      That tunnel is our life now. It’s not like it’s all underground or abandoned. There are lots of us walking the same or similar tunnels. It helps to know we are not alone. Cheers, Monica.

  2. Suzanne

    Robin, I don’t know how you find the words to express our pain so poignantly. I have come to the point now that I am able to just feel happy that I had this remarkable, talented, smart, funny, loving person in my life for 26 years. The part I can’t seem to ever really accept, when I think about it, is what HE lost. He, who was so full of enthusiasm and ideas and plans, and had so much to look forward to, lost everything in the blink of an eye. He doesn’t even have a tunnel to travel through. Love and solidarity.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I know what you mean about not accepting what our children lost. Most of the time I’m so wrapped up in my own feelings of loss and emptiness that I don’t even think of how unfair and horrible their loss is. Was. But I’m still hoping for a tunnel. I cannot say yet, will not say yet, that they don’t even have a tunnel. I keep putting off seeing the medium because I don’t ever want to have to know that they are left with no tunnel. And yet, if I don’t try out the medium, I’m erasing any chance of them having that “tunnel to travel through.” Yeesh, we know how to make life so difficult. Love and solidarity back, Suzanne.

  3. Gladys Botie

    If you were given a wonderful gift with the proviso that you could keep and enjoy that wonderful gift for only a limited time — would you rather not accept that gift and the rewards it would afford you — in that temporary time — or would you see yourself fortunate for the offer and cherish it — even short lived — and be grateful for being given the opportunity to experience its rewards in your lifetime. Is it not a question of old — better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Yours was a indeed a wonderful gift and a valuable personal experience. Treasure it. Don’t mourn its loss. No one can take the memory of it away from you. She was a beautiful piece of you that will live in your heart and mind for always.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      It is true. She not only lives in my heart and memory, she pushes me to explore and enjoy my life. She gets me to volunteer to do things I’d never have considered. She gets me to try things I would never have dared. Because of her I am braver and more considerate. And I wouldn’t trade having had her despite the pain I have now. I do mourn my loss. But mostly I am on the lookout for what I can find. Because there’s a lot to find. A lot to do that she didn’t get the opportunity to do. And until I know she is definitely completely gone, I’m gonna seek out and cherish all the beautiful wonderful things in life that she cannot. I will live on because that’s the only way I know of having her live on. “Count me in,” as Marika would have said. Thanks, Mom.

  4. SusanBs

    Good job writing this Robin. You lost a child. To save Marika you would have leaped in front of a bus. It will be 17 years since Nicholas died. After 12 years he was gone longer than he lived. I think of it not as “getting better,” like it’s a flu that will pass, but as “getting better at it.” I’ve learned to put aside the pain, still as fierce as it ever was, until I can take it out, unwrap it like a gaping wound, because these are our children for F’n sakes, they died, and here we are having to live this one life we have, without them. Yeah. It’s gonna hurt.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I agree totally, Susan. “Getting better at it” or getting used to it – IT is always there. Seventeen years sounds like forever. Seventeen years without Nicholas. Marika was twenty and it’s only been five years. Who and how will I be after twenty years, I wonder? I’m grateful you are out there to remind me that I can still “get better at this.” I will have to. We will have to. Or who else will carry around the spirit of your beloved Nicholas and my Marika? Hugs!

  5. Lucy Bergstrom

    You write with such love and intensity, Robin. I love the metaphor of your grief as a little child who needs to be carried through a dark tunnel, lulled and perhaps sung to along the way. Thank you for your clear insight.
    Love, Lucy

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      It’s so much easier to love something that may be difficult to live with on a day-to-day basis if you view it as an offspring, a small child, an innocent confused little being who didn’t ask to become a burden or a pain in your life, but simply grew there as a result of your original loving. Cheers, Lucy.

  6. gayle gray

    Dear Robin,

    I lost my brother more than 30 years ago, and I think of him frequently – with tears still. As painful as it is to grieve, it is not only healthy but also a gift to feel such intense love, and who would not grieve the death of a child for an entire lifetime (though the feelings do finally soften over time). I saw how the death of my brother effected my dear mother, and stand in awe of her commitment to go on – a feat of courage I can only imagine. I thank the universe that I still feel my brothers loss for I am always connected to his spirit. I love your grief- never stop growing in grief, and sharing that growth with others so they do not feel alone. Grief brings fullness to the heart and your heart is obviously full!

    Warmly, Gayle

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Dear Gayle,
      Thank you so much for your beautiful response to my post. I love that you still have this connection to your brother. Yes, the grief is so precious and there’s so much we take in and learn from grief and loving. There are so many of us out there, walking around with our hearts full of love for someone we can’t stand to call “lost.” Much as I wish my daughter was still completely here like she was once, I have to admit that grieving her has made me a better person. And I love sharing her, sharing my feelings and my story, and doing whatever I can come up with to ease another person’s heartache.


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