I don’t know about you, but when I bring a new animal being into the Roper household, my childish-make-believe-hope is that we will live together forever and ever, in an eternity of bliss, harmony and happiness.
But that’s not so, it can’t be, because we all have limited time spans in our life here on Mother Earth. Fact of life: we will most probably outlive the majority, if not all, of our animal pals.
If only it weren’t so.
The Weird Thing About Grief
When our animal pals pass, the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual pain we experiences can at times reach intolerable levels. We are left holding the bag, a huge hole in our hearts and our life. Fact of life: we are plunged into a new normal, trying to figure out how to cope without their wholehearted love, sloppy kisses and physical presence.
The weird thing about grief is that it’s about remembering, not forgetting. There’s no checklist to grief that says you’re done, you have closure, all is well, time to get back to your life now.
Sometimes we make the mistake of equating the depth of our love with the depth of our pain in grief. We can convince ourselves that if we let go of the grief, we are forgetting and dishonoring the memory of our animal pal and the relationship we had. But that’s not it.
This may sound like an oxymoron, but painful as it may be, grief is a way of honoring the relationship we had with our animal pal while we were both here on Mother Earth.
Here’s another weird thing about grief: When we experience grief honestly and as openly as we’re able, we are (often unknowingly) helping others with their grief.
Helping Others With Their Grief
I’ve personally experienced that before. When I was still in the belly of grief over my cat Mitzie, one of my friend’s dogs transitioned. Because of the grief I was experiencing, I was able to take in on a visceral level what she was going through. I discovered my presence alone was a support and comfort to my friend. I couldn’t make it better for her, but I could be with her in her grief.
That’s often called ‘holding the space’. Holding the space can be a very loosey-goosey term to understand, so here’s some clarification around it. Holding the space is about:
- Keeping an open heart. Allowing the person to be exactly where they are, and to work through things in their own time. Coming from unconditional love, you hold a safe space for them while they work through their process.
- Observing. Simply observe what is happening. There is no blame, judgment or criticism. Most often there is no talk – simply ‘I’m here for you’ solace.
- Support. Having faith and trust the person is doing what they need to do to heal. Sometimes people just need to be truly seen and heard. Whether the person needs to talk or be silent, give your undivided attention. Quiet your own mind, and be present to them.
- Trust. Trust you are being guided in how to be with that person. Sometimes you’ll feel inspired to speak or act, but don’t fill the silence just to fill it. Supported silence can be very healing. If you find yourself talking to fill up the silence, that is a sign you’re uncomfortable with what is happening, also an invitation for you to come back at a later time and discover what was causing the discomfort within yourself. Allow uncertainty, live in the mystery of what is unfolding.
- This isn’t about you. What you’ve experienced before, or what you might do in their shoes has no place in the process of holding space. Hurting for someone, or taking on their pain not only makes you less able to focus on what they are saying, but it is unhealthy for you. When you take on someone’s pain, that doesn’t lessen the pain or discomfort they are feeling. It only lowers your vibration.
The flip side of grief is joy, and often the two walk hand in hand. In the midst of our own personal grieving, it is possible to find joy. The joy of being there for someone as they are floundering in the belly of grief.
If you need help navigating your way as you are grieving the loss of your beloved animal or would like to talk about how you can help a friend or family member as they are grieving, let’s talk. Simply click here to see which service best suits your needs.