Getting back on the horse

I mentioned to a friend today that I am having a hard time writing here.  One reason is that I am super busy getting ready to start homeschooling again.  The other is that I have always been very authentic on this blog in that what I write about is typically exactly what is going on in my life and in my mind at the time.  My thoughts are still very occupied with the loss of my friend.  Sarah died three weeks ago, but I feel like many of us are only just now feeling the reality of that settle over us.  Grief isn’t neat and pretty and can’t be quantified or timed.

My stepmom, Jane, was killed in a car accident a little over four years ago.  We will never know exactly what happened because she was alone in the car.  In addition to the intense nature of the grief that comes with losing a parent, I faced a new fear in the months and years that followed.  I found myself struck with intense anxiety over driving anywhere alone.  It took me awhile to recognize why I was suffering from that fear, to connect it to Jane’s death in that car alone.  Thankfully, with time, that fear ceased to trouble me.

In those first days after Sarah died, a close friend mentioned to me that I needed to “Get back on the horse,” and soon.  I was in such a fog that her words completely confused me.  I asked her what she meant, and she said that I needed to take my children for a walk outdoors, maybe in the woods around our house.  In that moment, understanding hit me with great force.

Sharing my love for nature with my children has always been one of the most natural parts of parenting for me.

Sarah’s last act was to take her children for a nature walk, and I doubt she considered it a risky activity.  I doubt she was thinking about yellow jackets, and even if she was, she didn’t know she had an allergy.  There is always an element of the unknown in all that we do, we just don’t typically focus on that aspect of things.

A few years ago, a bear was spotted in our neighbor’s yard.  We don’t live in an area that typically houses bears, so I am not used to thinking about meeting one.  For a few weeks afterward, I was a little nervous on walks in our woods.  The fear faded quickly though, as I never ran into a bear myself, and I didn’t hear of anyone on our street meeting one either.

To be honest, I’ve not spent much time outdoors these past few weeks.  I’ve wandered around our property alone a few times, but haven’t really enjoyed it.  I don’t blame that on fear as much as sadness.

Yesterday I gathered my family for a walk, my friend’s words, “Get back on the horse,” swimming around in my head.  The truth is that I did feel afraid on that walk.  The air felt oppressive and the overgrown forest and fields that are creeping into our paths felt vaguely menacing.  I think it’s possible that I created that uneasiness out of an expectation.  It’s hard to say.  I can only move forward and hope for the best.  One day, I’ll find myself peacefully observing all that lives and breathes again, rather than searching for signs of danger.  Just as I continued to get in the car and drive to the grocery store on my own after Jane died, I will continue to go to the woods.


  1. I have been thinking the same thing myself. There has been much loss and stress on my side of things as well and it has made it really hard to get back up on that horse. God bless you!

  2. Ginny,
    God bless you and may he continue to bring comfort to you and those you love. Thank you for your lovely post.

  3. Lavender Lady says:

    Thank you so much for your breathtakingly honest posts, and your willingness to be vulnerable. I have only recently come across your blog (shortly before your dear friend Sarah passed away), and it’s like a sweet and calming presence for me. My heart aches for you as you journey through this time of sadness and trying to make sense of a searing loss, all while meeting the needs of your beautiful family. Walking with Jesus helps but does not erase the grief. May you feel His loving arms around you in the days ahead, and may new life and grace spring up within you at unexpected moments, when you need it most!

  4. It is always wonderful to “visit” you here on the blog. Your words mean so much to me, more than I am sure you will ever know, and to so many other people as well. Since your first posting about Sarah, I have found myself very apprehensive outside. We have a lot of wasps around our home. We had to remove several nests from the eaves last weekend and I was incredibly fearful…both because of Sarah’s story but also because I have always had a fear of anything with a stinger. I keep reminding myself that God probably doesn’t want me locking myself away in the house for the rest of my life. Nature is such a gift. Nature is everything, really. I am so glad you are finding your way back out into it. xx

  5. I want you to know that I appreciate, with everything in me, your commitment to keep blogging. I have been shy over the year that I’ve been reading and resting in your words, not commenting very much until now. So I never told you before that God sent your blog to me as a life-line to Him and to life as I’ve crawled my way out of my own postpartum depression (my youngest is just over a year). I spent many months in some dark and scary places in my brain, but I would read your words and see a faint light and then sense God’s hand pulling me out. You have also been such an integral part in my own journey Home to the Catholic Church after spending my life as a Protestant.

    So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for writing in your blog in the midst of your grief and suffering. Thank you for pulling up to your computer and sharing your grief with us. I promise you that God is using your words because your words have changed my own life, and so many others, forever.

  6. The thing is, in my opinion, one is kind of stunned by a world where a mom is taken from a family so quickly and without mercy. The same world where abides the most extraordinary beauty. Maybe one has to intentionally look for the beauty to make the suffering less painful.

  7. You are stronger than you think you are Ginny. I was in a little wreck with my Grandma when I was around 9 years old. I remember telling myself on that day that I would never drive and since then I have never liked driving. We don’t own a second car for me and as of right now I haven’t driven in 7 years. It makes me sad that I have done this to myself but that fear creeps in when I sit in the front seat I am that 9 year old in the wreck with my Grandma. So I agree with your advice get back on the horse!! Get out in those beautiful woods and pick wild flowers.

    Hugs to you!!!

  8. God bless and comfort you, Ginny. Thank you for sharing your journey here so honestly and candidly. Sometimes life gets glorified too much online – we only show our perfect, camera-ready selves. It’s comforting to see glimpses of the real, un-edited, more human self – the messier version that doesn’t have everything under control. I thank you.

  9. I will be praying for the Harkins family and all of you as well, especially because you are surely not the only one experience the confusion and fear following the loss here of Sarah. I appreciate your continuing to just post your real thoughts and experiences because life is more than the peaceful moments, the joyful moments.

  10. From losses I’ve experienced over the years, I’ve come to understand that we honor the dead by embracing life – by making each moment as rich and love-filled as possible in celebration of the life that was theirs. And with expectation of the reunion awaiting us when we compare notes on the heaven in heaven they know and the glimpses we see now of heaven on earth.

    I home-schooled my children forty years ago. I encourage you to home-school your children well. What a privilege home-schooling is.

  11. You and Sarah’s family have been on my mind so often. Ironically, for the first time, both my daughter and I were each stung by bees two days last week, not attacked, but stung. The fear from Sarah’s story was already there. I think God is reminding me He holds us all in His hands no matter what comes our way – or reminding me to pray for you – or both. Praying for you.

  12. Your friend is right,I am so glad you as you say got back on the horse!!!I know it is so hard but hang in there,it will get easier everytime you head to the woods!!!Sending huge hugs and prayers your way,and for the Harkins too!!!!xoxox

  13. I’m happy you are getting back on the horse. Remember, even horses take baby steps sometimes. Your site is lovely.

  14. Hi,

    I found your blog as I was searching through homeschooling blogs. Your pictures are beautiful, and I am sorry for your loss. I just thought I’d share that I lifted up a prayer that God would grant you peace and direction in your life as you seek to move on past these tragedies. I’m sure it is difficult, but it’s very encouraging to me that you are being so faithful and intentional in raising your family, and I’m sure God will continue to bless you and your family! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Love reading your blog post but would more than understand if you need to focus on other things for a time.

  16. Ginny,
    Thank you for putting the support update and great family photo of the Harkin children on your website. It not only serves to keep us updated on the amount given, but also as a reminder of the ongoing need as time sometimes causes that to fade in memory. Praying that it will be used of the Lord to continue to prompt giving and in so doing showing God’s love to this family in a tangible manner and keeping Sarah in our hearts as we pray for her family now.

  17. Katherine says:

    Hugs to you Ginny. Day by day, hour by hour….your grief will find a place to live alongside your other emotions, I hope and believe. And….It is always so touching to see how Gabe tends his younger brothers and sisters. He seems a beautiful boy. xK

  18. I hate to think about how sad you are. I’m sad and I didn’t know her. I just don’t understand how we can be so close to people and then they are gone. How are we supposed to just move on. How do we go on without them? I’m overwhelmed with death lately. I’m glad that you have all of your kids to focus on. Maybe that makes it a little easier for you. Hugs.

  19. Ginny,
    Your authenticity here is something I appreciate about your writing so much. Thank you for being honest, even when it’s hard. Sometimes I find it intimidating to be so honest on my blog and open myself up so much, part of me fears being judged.

    I didn’t even know Sarah, yet I feel heartbroken over the loss. My heart goes out to you, Ginny.

    To be honest, ever since I have felt very uneasy about yellow jackets and wasps. I wondered about epi-pens (did I spell that right?) and someone mentioned always having benedryl on hand. I don’t know enough about all that to know what to do, but it’s something I should probably research. Perhaps it would make me more relaxed outside, since I’ve been a bit uneasy lately.

    Hope you can have some enjoyable time outside soon.

    Love to you,

  20. Dear Ginny,
    If you don’t feel like writing you don’t have to. We will understand. If you want to write about feeling sad we will understand that too. This is real life and it can be hard sometimes. I think right now you just need to think about yourself and your family and don’t worry about the rest of the unimportant stuff until you are ready to deal with it.

  21. (((all of you)))

  22. beth lehman says:

    the thing about woods and nature is that it reminds me of god’s presence in a way that being in church doesn’t quite do… so alone or with your kids, connect with god in places of beauty whether sad or joyful… because of that connection. xo

  23. as much as you are trying to get back into your groove, allow yourself to go through the process of grief, it has been only three weeks and it’s okay to be sad. My thoughts and prayers are with you Ginny.

  24. So beautiful and heartfelt. I find myself (and I was not as close to Sarah as you) feeling guilty that I get to go on. That I get to “get back on the horse” so to speak. I think of her every day, all day long. Tears as I write this, it is still fresh. I don’t want her life to be forgotten. I ask myself if I thought of her every day before she died, and I think I did, most days, as I used her rosary to pray with, whenever I did movie reviews, or thought of it, I thought of her (she didn’t like my review of Olympus Has Fallen). The same still happens, the thoughts are there, even more though, and with a little sadness and happiness all at the same time.

  25. Fear does not prevent death, it prevents LIFE. – Naguib Mahfouz

  26. Ginny,

    Yes, it’s important to “get back on the horse,” as you say, but you can do so at your own pace. It’s only been three weeks since Sarah passed away, which is really no time at all. Take your time. It’s ok.

    Thinking of you.

  27. I know what it is like to live with that fear. We lost two babies to miscarriage several years back. For at least a couple of years, every time we’d go on a long car trip when I wasn’t driving, I would be a wreck. Any little swerve, any quick braking, and I would grab for the side of the door or audibly gasp. If I fell asleep while we were driving I would wake up in panic or occasionally cry out because I would have such a jolt of adrenaline thinking there was something I had to survive to help the kids. It took a while, possibly years, before I worked out that my reaction was because I wasn’t in control and I was terrified of losing my other children. Grief is a such hard place to be. I pray for healing and restoration for you sweet Ginny.

  28. Ginny, I am so sorry for your loss. I did not know Sarah personally, but I live nearby and my sister in law was in her homeschooling group. I have a necklace that she made and wear it all of the time now just to remember her. Her story hit close to home. I am praying for her, her family and friends ( you included).

  29. The lovely thing about you and your space here, Ginny, is that you are so authentic, and share with us your sorrows and fears as well as your joys. Even though they can’t be quantified or qualified. Thank you for sharing through it may be difficult. May Our Lady’s mantle of love enwrap you all.

  30. “Grief isn’t neat and pretty and can’t be quantified or timed”…I’m pretty sure truer words were never spoken. Still praying for you all…maybe your next walk, say Psalm 23 to yourself, or aloud for that matter. God doesn’t want us to live in fear, he wants us to live in abundance. Hugs to you! ~~Katie

  31. Well said, and well done. I heard and interesting story on NPR about 2 years ago. The sum of it was that our brains are so amazing at adapting that we actually grow neuro pathways that support our ‘new’ state of mind in only 4 days of consistent patterning. They actually said that it was common for people who have extended grief to become ‘addicted’ to it by way of the brain changes causing them to fixate on having those feelings as the new normal. They actually said that people should make a effort to grieve hard and fast and move on before 4 days is over. That seems harsh and yet there is a kind of science to it that is intriguing. Perhaps it accounts in some physical way for the reason that so many of us are changed forever by a loss of a close loved one. ‘Get back on the horse’ is a perfect colloquial in regards to that science.
    As the spirit and heart are concerned, you are never far from Sarah and your other loved ones who have passed. May you feel peace and sunshine.

    • Christine says:

      I think there must be a sociology study about there that confirms that four day idea. Have you ever seen people in other cultures cry and mourn out loud? It’s almost scary, how they wail and carry on, and it seems like it is the cultures that deal with death in a closer more frequent level. That is not to say it is inappropriate to continue to grieve, but we in America have a taboo to loud wailing and outward grieving. We have to put up a “strong” front and be stoic. I think it would be healthy to really cry when we feel the need. And yes, get on that horse and relearn that being one with nature is a good thing. I will pray for you, Ginny and your family as well as Sarah’s. Blessed are they that mourn, they will be comforted.

  32. The loss of a loved one is an acute pain in ones heart and soul. As time goes by the pain lessens some but becomes like a chronic pain that at any time can return to acute. I have suffered the loss of my child and my husband as well as several dear friends as well as both my parents, and can tell you that you will get stronger as time passes but do not be embarrassed by your sadness or try to push it down. That does not help. At some point you will feel more like yourself and the memories that make you sad now will eventually make you smile. Having a dear friend like Sarah was a blessing in your life, hold onto the gift of her love and caring.

  33. Thanks for sharing. It isn’t easy to go through this, but it will get a bit easier with time. Please know that there are many of us praying for you and Sarah’s family. Peace.

  34. Oh darling. It is perfecrly normal for trauma to affect us this way. Distill each day into hours, moments, breaths: one at a time. And every day, breath by breath, moment by moment, hour by hour it will become easier to bear, to cope, to move through your days with less and less debilitating anxiety and grief. And you will find yourself, once again, deriving great joy and healing in God’s wondrous creation. I am so very sorry for your loss. Praying for peace and healing for you and your family, for Sarah’s and all who knew her.

  35. Oh, Ginny. I’m so sorry. The reality of the loss seems to always hit hard after things have settled down a bit. I’m glad you were able to take that walk. They’ll be hard for a while but there is grace and healing in it.

  36. I’m so sorry for your loss, truly. Only time will heal, and even then, not always or ever completely – to be honest. I have had so much loss in my life – both parents, 2 of my best friends in the world. My beloved cousin died in March, very unexpectedly. I still hear her voice. My son’s best friend died Christmas night. That was/is – one of the hardest to make sense of. Loss changes you forever. My heart breaks for the loss of your friend.

  37. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for sharing from your heart! I appreciate your authenticity!

  38. I’m very sorry about the sadness, but only time would not delete what happened but bring you peace. I send you my love, thank you for staying on the blog sharing and inspiring all of us.

  39. I have continued to pray for you Ginny and Sarah’s family. Getting back to nature, yes, so good for you and your babies. I know the feelings you are feeling and I know too that each day will get better. Hugs.

  40. It is very hard to get going again sometimes after all kinds of things in life, especially when you lose someone as suddenly as you did in these two sad events, but you will get going in your own time as and when. It might come quickly or slowly, but it will come so do as you can in the meantime and don’t feel that you have to pressure yourself in any way. xx

  41. Praying for you Ginny. My car broke down few months ago while I was in it alone, driving on the motorway. Since then I feel not happy anymore about driving around on my own. Around the same time a new doctor of mine urged me to have my blood pressure checked as it seemed too high. That made me worry about my health. Both things lead to a very bad anxiety and panick attack while I was driving alone again in the evening, having another hour before me and feeling a bit numb in my arm and a little pain in my chest. Since then I got checked at the doctor and everything is fine and I feel much better although still not totally comfprtable about driving. What I actually want to say is that there might be people who take life easily or some who had least appear so and there are more sensitive people who get emotionally affected by negative things going on. Therefore I feel with you and keep praying for you.

  42. Very wise advice from your friend. I know what you mean about tracking down those fears. I still, to this day, have great anxiety in parking lots. A dear friend lost her son in a tragic parking lots accident (at church). It took me a long time to figure out why I had such a hard time and then one day I realized the root cause of my fear and it helped me get more rational about it. *hugs* and prayers for you as well as the Harkins family.

  43. Take it one day at a time. As you know, the days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. You will always mourn the loss of your sweet friend, but the pain and the grief will ease with time. I found it helpful in the loss of our 3 parents within 2 years, to find the things that not only brought me joy in remembering them, but the things that brought them joy when they walked this earth, incorporated into our lives again. Sudden death is so much more difficult. We have regrets, wishes and no time for good byes. In time you will be able to celebrate the life well lived! Until then rest in the arms of The Great Shepherd who feels your sorrow and pain. xo

  44. praying daily. these things take time but it is also good to just begin again, even if at first one is numb to it. God protect you and your family.

  45. While I have not lost a friend in the same way you have I do understand the emotions swirling in you and pushing you away from the woods. I’m holding space for you, friend. Be patient with yourself. It will come. Of that I am certain.

  46. May God continue to bring comfort to your heart and bless you in your preparations for school as well as caring for your family.

  47. Maybe you guys need another trip to Big Meadow. 😉 We’re still praying for the Harkins family and their friends.

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