The collective denial of our underlying emotional life has contributed to an array of troubles and symptoms. What is often diagnosed as depression is actually low-grade chronic grief locked into the psyche, complete with the ancillary ingredients of shame and despair.
– Francis Weller
A week ago, I lost a small furry companion who had been a part of my life for the last 15 years. I have so many memories of his always being close, wherever I lived, always snuggling and seeming to know of the comfort I needed, even if I wasn’t fully aware of the need, myself. His comfort was in his sweet, soft presence. He was a male, polydactyl, tuxedo who suckled the inside of his right front paw (think of a baby). There was something about him that softened the moments of my most edgy internal feelings. Although he had been ill for a while, his passing was extremely difficult for me. I am still getting used to not having him around in his furry little body; and I know he will always be near.
As I have been moving through the days, I am aware of the many layers of grief that are still there…deep within. I’ve written several times in this space about grief. Grief is a very familiar place for me and I have found so many ways to process the multiple layers and experiences that still surface from time to time. Even with the passing of this sweet little companion, I have been taken back to the losses of other furry ones in my past. It is as if they all decided to return to help me remember that this isn’t a new experience and there is much for which to be grateful, even as I am deep in my grief.
In those moments of raw grief, I was reminded of the gifts of the presence of each one in my life. So losing my dear little Cooper served to remind me of the many gifts of his presence, while also helping me see – one more time – that even when we think we’re alone, we are not alone – ever.
The tendrils of grief are like some plants. Consider grapes, melons and other such plants whose tendrils are long and curly and twisting in their structure. Some tendrils are soft and pliable and others are tougher, and a bit like bark on a tree. All of this serves to remind me that some feelings are soft and easier to acknowledge; and still others are more challenging to allow to surface from their deeply buried places within us. The old adage that “feel to heal” as a way forward is easy to say and not always easy to navigate. As with most challenging experiences in life, some of our processing work is our own to do. And…not to be minimized is the importance of also having a trusted other to listen, acknowledge and support us as we work through these sometimes curious and often painful experiences.
Gratitude holds many gifts for us when we open to acknowledging and expressing it, even when our hearts are aching. The beauty of memories is the potential to see, feel and acknowledge gratitude in those moments as we reflect on them. Not all are wonderful; some are challenging; and all have something for us. Therein lies the gifts of the experiences for which we can be grateful.
We must couple grief and gratitude in a way that encourages us to stay open to life.
– Francis Weller