Ann Hoff unexpectedly lost her beloved (dog) Lucie this fall and has found herself once again, treading through the journey of grief, and its waves of ongoing sorrow.
Grief has a way of knocking our feet out from under us. What was important just days ago, suddenly seems meaningless. Everything reminds us of our loss, and anything can be a trigger to cause us to spiral out into despair. I find myself looking for a new world where nothing reminds me of who I lost, a respite from the heavy weight of despair that seems overwhelming. Decades ago, this was listening to country music. I could revel in the over-the-top lyrics about loss. When I lost a horse to a broken leg, I spent months collecting rocks, finding the perfect rock was a balm to my fractured spirit. Then when Gracie died, I spent two weeks listening to Frank Sinatra music; it had no history with Gracie in it, unlike all the songs that had come out in the last ten years. I also found respite in simple physical tasks, cleaning the house (Which is something I never do otherwise!) loading a kiln with ceramics, moving furniture.
Being in grief is an awfully specific place to be. Many times, it brings our ego self to its knees, and we question everything. We realize that we don’t have control over everything, that we are powerless to stop the march of time, and death is a certainty. It is a time that we are more vulnerable, and dare I say, closer to our soul. Because of that, added information can get into our psyche more easily. So, it is time to learn something, to move on to our next lesson, our next adventure.
I know from talking to the Angels that the beings that I mourn are okay in the afterlife. That they still exist, and that we are connected with love so they can be spiritually with me at the speed of thought. I know that, help others realize that, and talk to pets and people on the other side on a daily basis. Yet when I lose a pet, I still deeply mourn. I have come to realize it is for myself- I am mourning the loss of their physical body, their daily presence in my life. I also know I must feel this grief, process it, so that I can feel fully and live fully when I get out of this despair.
I also know from the Angels that there is always more to love. That my time with my lost loved one is over, but there will be someone new to depend on me, love me and bring us both joy. I have learned from some of my darkest moments that sometimes loss is necessary to move us forward, to have us grow into the next stage of our lives. One of the lessons I learned through the loss of horses is that relationships are meant as experiences to learn and grow from. Each horse I had took me further along the road to being a world champion rider. To get there, I had to have the right partner. If I didn’t let go of a horse I had outgrown, they seemed to have a tragic death that forced me to grow. Another reason that happens is that I am committed to moving forward. I know in these great losses I am not the one who died. It is important to grieve but not to stay in that grief bed, unmoving and still. Depression is emotions not moving, not expressed. It is what happens If we don’t feel our feelings but suppress them. Usually, depression is unexpressed grief or unexpressed anger. I know that our emotions are connected to our soul, the voice of our soul that never gives up on us.
I read a Teddy Roosevelt biography recently. The man lost both his wife and his mother on the same day and was left with a baby daughter. Instead of throwing himself on the bed and staying there, stricken with grief, he went west and became a cowboy. He hunted, camped, and lived amongst people totally different than who he knew growing up in the east. He LEARNED SOMETHING NEW. Each time Roosevelt suffered a loss in his life, he moved forward and went on another adventure. This, I believe, is one of the things that made Roosevelt a great man. He moved forward, not dropped to the ground by grief but propelled forward by it. He knew that life is for living. That as long as we are breathing, we have more to experience, more to love.
So, take the time you need to grieve. Then give yourself over to new pursuits. Learn something while your ego is on its knees, not caring if it looks stupid or not. It is the best time to do it. Because you really don’t care about your ego, you just want to get away from your pain. The pain of grief cracks your ego open. But you are still alive, and the best way to prove it, the best way to honor the love that you’ve lost is to find another. To learn your next lesson, to move on to your next adventure.
Pet loss is difficult. Remember to reach out to someone in need. Show them you understand their pet was their family and their loss is real. One small gesture may make a world of difference.