How the loss of a beloved pet cracked open my heart and my mind — and got me thinking differently about the experience of life’s transitions (no matter what form they take)
Transition. No one really likes when it shows up — in a job, a relationship, a new routine…or a loss, particularly when it feels abrupt and jarring. The silver linings, hindsight and miracles don’t appear in the heat of the moment — we often only feel the heat. The good stuff comes later (or at least that’s when we tend to see it). Sometimes we settle into what is unfolding and other times we push back, we resist, we try to scamper about to recollect the pieces of ourselves, trying to glue broken shards back together again. But sometimes broken things can’t be fixed and we are meant to simply let go.
Some transitions simply pull the rug from right underneath us.
Last week I was underwater, completely knocked off my feet by having to unexpectedly (well, not so unexpectedly) help my 14-year old family dog transition.
Of course, I was cognizant that this day was on the horizon. 14 is a good long life for a black lab and the signs of decline were scattered about. But it doesn’t matter because that’s not the way the heart beats or reads the situation. No, the heart beats to the beat of its own magical drummer and skips off with unicorns and fairies from time-to-time…because, well, why not?
The irony is not lost on me that in my last blog I wrote about dancing between logic and fairy dust. Hello. It literally set the stage and was the entrée into this emergent chapter of letting go, the prelude to my impending grief — and simply allowing the inexplicable to come in (and be inexplicable).
I’m still quite raw and vulnerable, but I’ve been observing myself these past days realizing there are some tremendously valuable nuggets to be culled from this pain (with surely more to come in time).
If there’s one thing I know in life, it’s how to show up.
I can drop what I’m doing, heed the call, be present and do what is being asked of me. I don’t waiver in this arena. It is actually something I witnessed my father do throughout my life, something I greatly admired in him. He was a complex man full of human flaws, but man did he know how to show up for people, and it was powerful.
The morning my dog died, I laid with her on the floor. Through tears, I reiterated how much I loved her. I told her how she mustn’t suffer. And I asked her to let me know where I could support her — to show me what she needed of me.
I didn’t actually realize that I was about to be put to the test, that I would have to put my money where my mouth was…that within hours I was going to have to take action to back those words up. She needed me to show up for her with compassion, perspective and strength.
While I’d love to share the legacy in all of its glory of this beautiful being, sweet Migis, who was the runt of her litter, who came from Mississippi and was supposed to be a duck hunter, who became the medicine for a blended family, who was pure love and gave herself to us unconditionally and wholly for 14 years (actually 1 week shy) — instead, I want to talk to you about the miracles that surrounded her death. I also want to share the insights that have unfolded within hours, days and will continue to because I’m keeping my eyes (and heart) open.
None of us is immune to transition and I want you to be open to not only embracing your journey, but receptive to receiving your messages.
In our darkest hours there are flickers of light. They are people who show up for us and synchronicities and circumstances that reveal themselves. It’s like catching fireflies on a hot summer night, too many to count — but together they illuminate a new path and tell a new story. It can become a wondrous game that lures us from our despair back towards the sweet nectar of life’s essence.
It’s not about bypassing the pain. The need to experience our pain as part of the journey is real and gut-wrenching and necessary. It’s a fire we must all walk through at some point. It’s not about making anything better, it’s about embracing the fullness of our experience. No, the people, notes, social media comments, flowers, kale salad and cookie deliveries, can’t bring my puppy home, but each gesture felt like another layer of salve being applied to an open and vulnerable wound.
How can you be that salve for someone?
How can you be it for yourself?
Remember how I mentioned earlier that I’m good at showing up? Well, I’m not good at giving myself the opportunity to languish there for long. It’s as if I say to myself, OK, been there done that, time to move on. Yeah, well that’s not how grief goes down.
The day Migis passed, I surrounded myself by things that nurtured me. I didn’t work. I didn’t get on my computer or social media. I sat with friends, ate good food, laughed, cried and stared off into space. I just sat with my numbness, my sadness, my new dog-less reality. It is within that space that life reveals itself to us, that the so-called ‘coincidences’ come forth and we begin to take note.
While I could have felt very sorry for myself, having to put my beloved dog down without my partner who was away on business at the time (AND who was the one who brought this 4-legged furry friend into my life to begin with) — I began to see why it was unfolding exactly and divinely as planned.
Ask and you shall receive. Ask where you are being called to show up and answers will appear. Ask to see signs and you will see signs.
ASK…and then open your senses.
The day after, I literally thought I was going to go back up to my office and get back to work as if I had checked grief off my list. I know. I went through the motions of my daily routine. The resident teenager did the same and headed off to school. We both quickly began to unravel simply because grief has its own timeline and that can look differently to each of us. Both of us found ourselves going through the motions feeling like we were bumping into walls, and with a rawness that left us feeling as if we could burst into tears at any given moment.
Sometimes there are realities that need to be attended to, but more often than not, there is also space to address the need to be tender with ourselves. The world won’t stop spinning if we allow ourselves to sink into our emotional reality, to feel what is coming up for us.
Here are a few things to ask yourself as you go through any transition:
- Can you show up for yourself in the same way you can show up for others: with patience and loving kindness? (Practice trying)
- Can you ask your body, mind and soul what it needs in any given circumstance and can you allow this to come forth? (Practice asking)
- When given an answer, can you listen…can you hear what is being asked of you? (Practice listening)
- Can you leave room in life for dessert — the whimsy, the magic, the miracles, the inexplicable? (Practice wondering)
- Can you stop the merry-go-round of life and create the space to feel your way through the life experiences unfolding? (Practice quieting)
These questions will guide you to hearing what is needed to heal.
Grief (or transition) doesn’t come with a calendar. Sometimes it will take days, weeks or months…but life shifts when we have a willingness to embrace the transition, to relinquish the energy of trying to control the outcome…when we settle into being a witness, the grand observer of our own lives.
Whether it’s grief, loss or simply a life realignment — in whatever form it appears — don’t diminish it.
Give it the space to take shape, to unpack its hidden treasures, to reveal its purpose. Nothing is random.
Each time I stepped out of my head, walked away from the ‘shoulds’ — I should be doing this, I should be doing that, I made some magical connections, I saw some new grace, I received messages…and I took another step towards my healing. I also began to recollect the pieces of myself that delights in wonder, in connecting dots, the ethereal.
In less than a week’s time I can tell you that I’ve received messages from beyond, found some semblance of peace and marveled at the divinity within the timing of things. I’ll admit I haven’t gone in my backyard as of yet, the place I will be particularly reminded of my girl. Baby steps.
I didn’t want my dog to pass, ever. However, I promise you, that day was full of grace. Things played out exactly as they were meant to. My sweet girl gifted me in life and in death — and such is the gift of transition; the letting go of parts of ourselves and the embracing of others. She helped me show up better for life, as a better me. There’s no wonder that DOG spelled backwards is GOD.
It all starts with showing up for ourselves and knowing that there is grace to be harvested in each encounter, even amidst the toughest of days. Be that for yourself because when you do, your best self will expand and heal and bring forth it’s most glorious gifts to the world…even in transition.
As always, I love to hear from you. How are you at handling transition in life — do you show up for yourself, make room for the inexplicable and ultimately for true healing? Please let me know in the comments below.