I had an amazing experience last week.
I was packing my vehicle, for the return leg of my solo road trip from Canada to Arizona, where I had been visiting my Aunt.
“You must see the Grand Canyon on your way home,” she said. “It’s only a few hours north from here.”
North. I was planning to head west, to take the most efficient route home. I had such a long journey ahead of me. Additional days for sightseeing would only add more miles, expense and personal energy to my trip.
But the Grand Canyon. Could I pass up an opportunity to see something “grand” that has inspired so many generations of people, stories, film and art?
Knowing life holds no guarantees, knowing I may not ever come this way again…I decided to take an alternate route home, and made an extra effort to see for myself, what my Aunt (and many others) encouraged me to see.
The Grand Canyon exceeded my expectations. I knew it would be beautiful, but I didn’t know the impact it would have on me.
When I first stood at the railing and laid eyes on its magnificence, I gasped and cried openly. It was so incredibly breathtaking! More than I ever could have imagined. Tears flowed down my cheeks.
It was awe-inspiring. And I felt so emotional.
I wept for the opportunity to see this natural beauty in my lifetime, and I wept for the bittersweet circumstance that my husband did not live long enough to see it with me. I was seeing this beauty alone.
Yet, I was not alone.
And not because there were other people around me, taking photos and hiking the trails and enjoying winter picnics.
It was because I felt a sense of connection to something greater than myself.
Something vast, timeless and transcendent, that shifted my perception of the world. Something that was here long before I was ever born, and will remain here, long after I’m gone.
When you experience a great loss, you know the deep, inconsolable pain of losing that connection. And how it is a long, personal journey to recreate a new life, after that loss.
An experience of awe may be something to momentarily lift you from your grief, and remind you of the life force that is still inside you. That you are still here, and there is still beauty in the world to experience.
You can find nature’s beauty through travel, but you can also experience a sense of awe from your own backyard, looking up to the night skies, seeing twinkling stars and constellations that have been there for thousands of years.
Nature offers endless moments to experience a sense of wonder, which cost absolutely nothing, and are ever changing:
- A soft pink sunrise, or a blazing sunset.
- The glowing full moon rising over the landscape.
- A rainbow suddenly emerging from the clouds.
- Lightning within a storm.
- Ribbons of dancing northern lights.
- A meteor shower.
Many people who experienced the awe of last summer’s total solar eclipse, felt profoundly moved witnessing such a rare and special celestial event.
You can also experience moments of awe through beautiful legacies created by other human beings:
- A soul-stirring piece of music. (My personal favorite is Clair de Lune by Debussy. Especially while listening under moonlight.)
- An inspired, passionate speech.
- An iconic work of art.
Even if you can’t travel to Florence to look up at Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, you can still go stand at the trunk of a large, wise old tree, and gaze skyward. An ancient tree is a masterpiece of nature.
You can also simply be present with your Self. Through the stillness of meditation, you might have a very moving, spiritual experience.
If you are feeling lost or disconnected in this unfamiliar place of life after loss, I encourage you to step outside in the world — your world — and actively seek out something awe-inspiring to awaken all your human senses.
You may feel uplifted, a sense of reconnection, or greater purpose.
You may even come alive.
This post was originally published as a guest author contribution on SecondFirsts.com, a website and community devoted to inspiring people after loss.