Skip to content

The weight of grief: while riding I become weightless. 

This is the second of Brynn’s series about the forces in life that took them away from the bike, and brought them back.

You can read the first entry here:

Grief immobilized me. I am not new to grief, but this kind, this unexpected loss alongside the long weeks of not knowing and then finally having to be the one to make the decision to withdraw care for my father, was new to me.

 I have lost people before. Working in the hospital and having dealt with my own health issues have made me realize how precious life is. In ways that I think a lot of people don’t think about it, I don’t take the time we have for granted. 

My father was a different story. Parts of me hung back, unwilling to trust him. It takes time to reestablish trust after what we had been through. 

We were getting there. 

I was getting there- I had just bought a camper that we were looking forward to fixing up together. I was calling him more. 

I thought we had time and I was looking forward to it.

That time was ripped away. I could make no sense of it- here was a man who had just started finding joy again, after a lifetime of fighting depression. Why? Why now? 

Is there sense in any death? Can we conceptualize the loss of any life? 

Everyone is different, but up until this particular death, I had been able to grieve with the knowledge that I had given all I could, that I had no regrets over a particular relationship.

This death ripped a hole in that. I was angry at myself. 

People kept telling me that I handled everything: his hospitalization, updating estranged family, dealing with all of it on my own, with so much grace. I was baffled- I didn’t know any other way to handle it. And what does grace look like? Not holding onto him and prolonging his suffering? Not yelling at the hospital staff I knew were doing their best? Not completely losing it?

But I did, in my own way, which perhaps looks different. No one else can know the depths of our own sense of despair or loss the way we do, the caverns that yawn deep inside us, the gnawing of guilt that we could or should, have done something differently.

All I know is that one day, I woke up and pulled out my bike. I had been looking up routes on an app I had never used before and found one that looked doable. It would take me to beaches I had been going to since childhood, the lure of the ocean too difficult to pass up.

The usual excuses marched through my head that day: I had slept in, it was already too hot, I was out of shape, what if I got a flat (I’m useless at mechanical issues). 

Despite this litany of protests, I got my bike out, headed to the start of the route, and started pedaling. The first thing I did was drop my phone multiple times as I tried to navigate where I was going.

But then, suddenly, I was soaring. I was awake to the air, to the shadows of the leaves falling over me, the smell of mud, the sensation of my own heart beating. I rode along a path I had walked so many times and then suddenly, I was in the middle of fields, forests and gardens I had never seen before.  

I rode to Higgins Beach, rubbing chafed shoulders with the rich who crowd our shores every year, making access to the coast harder and harder. The waves curled in under themselves and a breeze grew up as I navigated the busy streets. 

Just further down the road was Kettle Cove, which reserves access to local fisherman and was where I had come to sit on the rocks and contemplate the changes that the pandemic would bring while watching the ocean endlessly sigh, in and out. I kept on, passing lighthouses, lobster boats, farms. I stopped for lunch at the Lobster Shack. I ate my fish and chips, slathered in vinegar and tartar sauce, while watching the sun glint off the heaving waves.

These were places I hadn’t visited in years, which in my memory were disjointed and far apart, still images from my past that lacked context or connection. Suddenly they looped together, a new geography forming, dots connecting in time and space of where I had grown up. 

My body settled, the ocean sang to me, and for the duration of a bike ride, I was present and alive. The world became beautiful and it tasted like salt from sweat and sea and lemonade that bites cold.  

I was reminded that day of what showing up can do, of how empowering it is to transport yourself through a landscape, of how liberating the bike is. My mind grew back to size, my heart started to unfold again, and it fed me what I had been missing- joy, playfulness, wonder, and a belief in my own capabilities. 

After that one bike ride, I was addicted. I began looking for more excuses to discover new places on the bike. A friend of mine, Blaire Campbell, was riding the Great Divide last summer. I have always watched her adventures with a sense of awe and now, suddenly I thought, why not? Why wouldn’t I be capable of doing that? Surely if I can ride 25 miles around the neighborhood, I can do more.

Of course it is this exact attitude that consistently has me doing things that might be a little beyond my reach. I may have signed up for a bike-backing trip that I found on social media, organized by Emily Elliott. I may have thought to myself “I am absolutely crazy”, as I mailed my postcard off for the entry. It was in California, across the country, in a place I had never even heard of, the Anza Borrego Desert. I had never gone bike-packing before, let alone in a desert, let alone even having a bike capable of that terrain. 

But what of it? The thirst for what I felt on that ride came back into my life and I wanted more of it.

Share this post


  1. I feel like I’m riding with you. The ride of your thoughts. The ride on your bike. Your use of language is beautiful and relatable and transporting. I look forward to the next chapter.

  2. This is phenomenal. I can feel the greatness of the ocean, and of life just churning on and on, and how small we are. And your excitement to ride is palpable. I want to ride now!

  3. Loving your storytelling ….I feel as though I can feel both your grief and then the wash of joy that riding brought back into your life. Looking forward to the continuation!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.