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After Pilgrimage | Grief & Loss


It’s a crisp Sunday afternoon this past November and I’ve arrived home from my whirlwind Mary Magdalene pilgrimage. I was calm and exhilarated. The trip transformed me.


I walk into my cottage, dropping carry-on bags as I turn on various heaters, when I notice every clock face shows a different time. What time isit? I don’t have much time before I need to jump on my laptop to join a Zoom session with one of my work partners. The WiFi is out. After patiently navigating a few tech hurdles, I finally get online with Helen.


She motions to me that she can’t hear me. We decide via text that a meeting wasn’t in the cards and I close my laptop. That’s when it hits me, “Where’s my journal?”I scamper through my bags, look below my heap of laundry, check and recheck my travel backpack as the realization sinks into a heavy reality. My travel journal didn’t make it home with me.


Here’s the remarkable thing: I didn’t get upset. I just accepted that there must be a reason for this. The pilgrim’s mind that I cultivated three weeks on the road was still steady and non-reactive. This was just another hiccup on the journey. These things happen when you travel.


But another voice in my mind began to walk down a different path:

…The scribbles of my ‘aha’ moments…the first impressions of the Papal Palace…my healing experience of “falling through the hourglass”… an hour and a ½ of direct transmission of a conversation with Mary Magdalene in the restaurant at the base of her Grotto-gone!


Bewildered, yes. Concerned, yes. Upset, not really. Not yet.


Suzanne, another work partner, comes to stay with me 3 days later. The grief of losing the journal has set in. It was left on the plane. I’m busy ramping back into my “writer-self,” so I can complete my reflections on the journey, when I fall down some stairs and badly sprain my ankle. I was sharing something exciting from my meditation, running down the steps, one arm full with the new journal and the other hanging onto my mug of coffee, when life had another idea.

I don’t remember the last time I felt so much pain.


A week passes and the drama of my injured ankle has lessened but I’m nursing the larger wound of the loss. I share my feelings with JC in a meditation.


JC: You know Sally, this is part of the lesson. You came home and returned to your former, busy self. Perhaps there is a different path. Perhaps you are meant to stay inpilgrimage. To show others that it can be a journey and a path. Be sure to talk to your ankle. See how it’s doing.


That evening I turned this over and over in my mind. It wasn’t a new idea to me. On the plane, I finished The Art of Pilgrimagedetermined to work the principles and share my knowledge with others. But I lost all of my notes on the book in my journal!I remember to talk to my ankle:


Sally: So, how are you doing ankle?

Ankle, in a male voice: I’m doing pretty well! Getting stronger every day!

Sally: Yeah, I feel that! You aregetting stronger!! I’m just getting a little…frustrated, I guess. I need to slow down—

Ankle: -- Yay, and that’s good, right?!

Sally, to myself: Ohhh. Yes. Slowing down.


If it takes a fall down a flight of stairs to remind me that life isn’t to be rushed, it is meant to be enjoyed-just as it had been a few weeks before on the trip-than I can handle that. That’s a lesson worth accepting. I get it.


Grieving loss is a process. It’s the waves that hit you and you do your best to lean into them, feel them and drift in. You work through loss, you don’t get over it. Ignoring loss only causes it to return to you in a different scenario; a more complicated lesson or a difficult relationship. It morphs. You are ignoring a pattern that is asking to be seen. Spiritual bypassing only creates more work for yourself.


When I returned from my trip, I was all ready to jump back into my working world. Spirit didn’t want any part of it. In fact, they wanted me to not worry about time-the clock faces- and were in no hurry to facilitate my connecting with the world of tech. I wasn’t listening. I was calm but I didn’t pick up on the signs along the way. Until I was forced to.


Working through loss allows the natural flow of life to happen. For you to happen.

Once the acceptance settles, there is usually a gift, however poorly its wrapped.


It took me three months to return to this writing, that’s how much this loss affected me.

Writing about this experience, I felt certain, would ensure that the journal would never return. This is my state of mind. And that’s OK.


My pages and pages of writing crystalized the experience of the journey: that’s the gift. It’s in my heart and no one can take that away from me.


And never again will I begin a journal without first putting my name and contact information on the back front cover!