In the year after he passed, I was living in somewhat of a fog. Up until Derek’s passing, I had become very good at “forgetting a loved one’s death” to allow me to cope and function. I had lost so many people in my life, my brain compartmentalized everything as a survival tactic to keep me from falling apart.

But I specifically did not want to forget this death. I wanted to hold onto him as long as I could.

So my brain complied.

But in doing so it began deleting parts of my memory responsible for daily functions as it couldn’t handle both.

So for one year, I couldn’t remember how to use a fork or how to get dressed.

I would get in the car and not know how to get to simple places I had driven every day.

But I smelled him…

I remembered every conversation, and event that took place between us. And I remembered in painstaking detail the night that changed my life.

For one year, I was not in this world but living in a space that was
in-between…a Forest of Echoes.

That space was comfortable and felt more and more like the real world….

But I knew I couldn’t stay.

I took baby steps in trying to navigate back in the real world.

I wrote post-it notes with instructions on how to great dressed; I had someone program my GPS with addresses to the everyday places I needed to get to ensure I didn’t get lost. And my best friend connected me to g-chat so we could talk all day long.

Those little steps grounded me back into the physical world.

Grief navigates differently in everyone’s life. And many will find comfort in the world that is between here and there. The world before everything changed. There is no timeline for how long you stay. It is hauntingly beautiful and comfortable. And even if you leave it is easy to slide back in. 

A whiff of his cologne pulls me instantly back.

For me, I know I can visit but I can’t stay in the Forest of Echoes.

There are still adventures that I need to take for the both of us.

And most importantly stories that need to be shared so others may know they can navigate between the worlds and keep their loved one “alive” as they live their own life fully.

Image: ID 115644951 © Andreiuc88 |


  • Val Blair

    Creative/Marketer, Writer/Speaker on Grief and Trauma, Spiritual Transformational Coach, Storyteller and Life Enthusiast

    A Light in the Chaos, Mark Collateral

    Val has worked in the media and creative industry for over 18 years and is an inspirational teacher and blogger. She enjoys helping others tap into their "fearful pain-bodies, the accumulation of life experiences filled with emotion, pain or fear, and embrace /transform those emotions into strength and love. Through her blog, she journals her journey through grief and healing through love. You can learn more about her @ or connect socially at