I sat on my front porch, enjoying the sound of the passing traffic, the cool breeze that blew in the window, and the reflection of the sun catcher as it cast a million tiny, dancing rainbows over the walls.
As I took a deep breath into the peace and stillness, sadness came welling up.
After only a week, I was still in the process of grieving for the loss of my beloved dog of fifteen and a half years. Nearly half my life revolved around his care and I was faced with a profound loss and major transition in my life. I took another breath in memory of his life, when I felt the precious, healthy life growing inside me wiggle around. I brought my hands to my belly and smiled.
I sat in that moment with presence and an intense range of emotions. I sat with a smile, elated to be halfway through my pregnancy, with a healthy baby. A tear streamed down my face for the sadness over the loss of my buddy, while witnessing life’s paradoxes with clarity. My old life had painfully come to a close as the new one began to emerge. My recent days consisted of ups and downs of sorrow and joy, grief and jittery excitement, heartbreak and intense love.
It was my allowance for all my emotions that kept me going.
Throughout the days, caught up in grief, I was very aware of all the places where my dog was not. Fifteen and a half years of routine, of putting him first, changed the instant he passed. Grief coursed through me as I resisted my new reality. I knew that I needed to find the places where he was to ease my pain. Grateful, I saw him in the myriad of photos and videos that remain. I felt him in my heart as I remembered the love we had. I found him in the smile on my face when I remembered his tender and loving demeanor.
The nature of the mind is to search through data from our past and find similar experiences to attach to, deepening our connection to the emotion, intensifying it as each thought comes in. I noticed my mental dialogue, searching for past experiences where I felt grief and loss. I consciously resisted getting stuck in this cycle, bringing myself to the here and now, as uncomfortable and resistant as I was.
The tears would flow and then they would stop. I’d gaze out with sadness at the place my dog’s bed used to be and suddenly feel a small movement within.
Immediately smiling, my baby reminded me that there was peace and even joy in those moments of intense sadness.
I remembered how rapidly my dog’s health failed and just how much pain he was in. Watching him grow old—especially during the last three to four weeks of his life—left me feeling helpless and heartbroken.
We tried everything to make him comfortable and ease his pain but his little body eventually shut down. Bracing myself, but not really prepared, I fondly remembered holding him in the palm of my hand at six weeks old, with a broken leg and ear and eye infections. I was so in love. I selfishly wanted him here forever and couldn’t believe his life was ending.
I took a step back from the detail of his death and found solace in the big picture: the fact that he was at peace; no longer struggling to walk, eat, hear, or see. I remembered the blessing he was and the fifteen and a half years we had together.
My fuzzy baby had returned home, back to health and vitality; no longer in pain, no longer suffering.
My unborn child, protected from the world, brought me back to love as I slowly made peace with my new reality and let my cherished dog go.
The grief had slowly softened its grip as I became more present, shifting my focus to the love instead of the pain.
My willingness to feel allowed me to gently change my perspective from the lack of my beloved pet to the love for my beloved pet.
Gratitude for the time I had with him, amongst the grief, enabled me to feel a tiny bit better every time, slowly pulling me out of the despair and heartbreak I felt. Not stuffing down emotions brought me freedom from additional suffering and attachment to past sorrow and grief. My willingness to feel, no matter how uncomfortable, allowed healing to take place and allowed me to begin to mend my broken heart.
As often as I could, I remembered him healthy and lively, bringing joy to my life, rather than weak and dying. His presence enriched my life, brought me joy, love and made me laugh. At times, those laughs turned into tears but I knew I was releasing grief and resistance as I felt and let go. Up and down and back again, heartbroken, full of resistance, joyous and excited, mourning a loss and celebrating a life, I allowed all of the emotions to be there, flowing as freely as the waves they rode in on.
I cried less each day and was able to smile and even laugh at what a blessing he was in my life. It was such a gift to care for him and I know I will pass all of that love onto my baby. The void in my heart slowly begins to fill, as I shift my focus to love and to the amazing journey ahead of me.
I sit in the evolution of my life, reminded that all relationships have a beginning, middle and end.
Some ends are painful and rip our hearts out but if we can remain present in our lives before they end, we would have really lived, appreciated their beauty and would have not taken one moment for granted. We find the lesson and gratitude for every second we had together.
We go on with our lives to honor those that are no longer able to live and we hold their spirit close to our hearts, looking for signs that they are at peace, with us always.
It is when we allow the ups and downs to freely flow and experience the fullness of our lives that we truly live and feel most alive. Ignoring emotion and holding on disrupts homeostasis in the body, creating unnecessary aches and pains, stress, imbalance, illness and even disease.
No matter how uncomfortable I’ve been feeling, I’m always able to find gratitude for the experience.
Being human means feeling.
Being uncomfortable means growth.
It’s up to me to choose the direction my grief takes me, moving further away from peace or toward it with a clear mind.