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“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela

I cannot believe that this is the 50th blog I have written on The Huffington Post! A year and four months ago, after Peter died, grief was in charge of me and blazed a fiery path through my heart. Today, I can honestly say that I am in charge of grief! The sadness is profound, the hole in my heart is still cavernous, but the good news is that my heart keeps on beating. My survival is about courage. Processing grief takes immense courage. Honoring your grief takes guts, grit, determination, and about everything you can marshal in your arsenal of audacity to move forward.

When I think of courage, I think of Bert Lahr as the cowardly lion singing in The Wizard of Oz:
“I’m afraid there’s no denyin’
I’m just a dandy-lion
A fate I don’t deserve
I’m sure I could show my prowess
Be a lion, not a mouse
If I only had the nerve.”

In the movie, we witness the lion learn to find courage in self-confidence. The word courage comes from the French word “coeur,” which means heart. Our cowardly lion was looking for a heart when he wanted courage. We know that the lion is so ashamed of his fear and cowardice that he cannot recognize his innate courage to help Dorothy travel all the way to see the Wizard of Oz. Once he realizes his own bravery and nerve, he can finally warm to the feeling of courage.

We have heard the term “liquid courage” to describe the effects of alcohol, but its fortifying effects last only as long as the high does. Similarly, medications give you “biochemical courage” and can temporarily help a griever through some tough times but ultimately you must find your own courage to honor grief and find your way through this arduous journey.

When one thinks of the word courage, thoughts of bravery come to mind, like knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress, or firefighters saving victims. But bravery is not courage. Bravery is the daring to go forward. Courage is the quiet resolve and commitment to act bravely. I have learned to welcome courage daily. When Peter first died, it was all I could do to get out of bed. I had to pat myself on the back each day for facing the day alone. The journey through grief takes all the courage you can muster.

Grievers are a courageous bunch. Each day we must acknowledge our pain and find the strength to keep going. We are navigating a terrain with no road maps or trail markers. We have to find our own path to restoration and it takes immense courage and fortitude. Others have traversed these paths but it is only through our personal courage to face the journey, that we can discover the direction to find our true selves again. The struggle is that we finally realize that he is never coming home and we have to figure out how to live without him and redefine ourselves. Like the cowardly lion, I didn’t realize how strong I had become in life, until I was called upon to be the full being that was inside of me. Real courage is not the absence of fear, but the motivation to move forward in spite of it. e.e cummings tells us “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” I am using courage to find out who I truly am and to value the person I have become.

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