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A guide to grief

Brooke Lake

It became my secret morning ritual while in Jordan. Every morning in the desert I managed to wake myself just before the sunrise peeked over the mountains in Wadi Rum. On one particular camping trip, I remember waking up suddenly in the dark of the early morning as if someone was calling for me outside. Quietly, I unfolded myself from the night’s mess of blankets, unzipped the tent and found myself running towards a mountain some twenty yards away.

After situating myself on what seemed to be an impossibly uncomfortable rock ledge, an eerie silence permeated the landscape. I could hear only my heart beating and as I looked at the breathtaking scenery of sand and rock before my tears started to fall uncontrollably.


Before I knew it I was writing him letters, and long ones at that. Something about isolation, silence and that desert which made all the emotions I had been burying for months come to the surface. Everything I had ever wanted to say to him came flooding out onto paper. It was like being able to talk to him after months of silence and, boy, did I have a lot to say.

In those first 30 minutes of furious tears and painful honesty with myself, I started to stare down that tall giant of grief.

One year ago this month, my father passed away from an extremely aggressive case of bone cancer. He was diagnosed in November 2012 and lost his battle by February 2013. It was quick, it was traumatizing, but most of all it was downright heartbreaking.

I am going to let you in on a personal truth I found over this past year — there is no guide to grief. You cannot hide or ignore the pain, nor can you put it to words or discard its grip with a fistful of tears. It is imperative to face your grief because running or ignoring it is neither a solution nor a healthy alternative.

How have I dealt with grief? I found ways to honor my dad in moments or places I considered to be sacred.

While living in Morocco and traveling throughout Spain and Portugal this summer, I carried with me a bag of polished rocks I obtained from a store in downtown Fort Collins. The act itself was simple yet secret. Every time I visited a place which inspired the memory of my father I left a rock. By the end of August I had left a trail across North Africa and Europe.

When I returned to United States, my suitcase was lighter and so was the amount of grief I carried with me.

Like many reading this article, I am a young twenty-something trying to accept the reality of adulthood while juggling university, relationships and work. However, I carry the grief of losing my father with me everywhere I go.

I wrestled with writing this article but clung onto the hope that maybe sharing my experience will speak at least a breath of peace over someone having to climb that mountain of grief as well.


When I am blindsided by another wave of grief, and I start hating myself for still feeling the pain even after a year, I remind myself that I am not a rock, but a human. I allow the tears to fall, I let my friends and family hold me when I am too weak to stand on my own and I remember that I am my father’s daughter — a fact I took for granted for the 21 years I had with him.

I am thankful for the pain that came with losing my father for it provides me a way to measure the depth of my joy.

Brooke Lake is a senior with a new perspective on grief. Feedback can be sent to

In Brief:

The loss of my father was both traumatizing and heartbreaking

Upon coming back to the U.S., I found that my grief was lighter than when I left

I am thankful for the pain that came with losing my father, because now I can measure the depth of my joy

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