Facing our fears builds courage. It is a means to step forward in our grief. That is what courage looks like.
Courage is not fearlessness. Courage means that we experience all the feelings that make us want to turn away. We feel the butterflies in our stomachs. We take notice that our heart is beating fast. We are aware of the anxiety that feels like a constriction squeezing us tighter and tighter.
And in spite of it all, we go forward.
A man said to me that he felt it was time to begin to go through his wife’s things. His heart told him he was ready and that he needed to make some decisions about what to do with them. He said that when he stepped through the door, he felt his heart begin to race and that he started to cry. He went ahead and tackled the first drawer. When he finished with that drawer, he was tired and pretty emotionally spent. He felt that was all he could do. That day. A few days later, he came back and did some more. Eventually, he completed the dresser.
That was courageous.
He did a little at a time. His courage didn’t mean that he had to battle all the way through the whole task at once. One drawer today. Another later. Bit by bit.
Courage is born, as Eleanor Roosevelt said when we realize that we have “lived through that horror.” Courage grows each time we “take the next thing that comes along.”