Tomorrow, December 16, marks the one year anniversary of the death and transition of my beloved horse Shiloh. I have been dreading it enormously, but what can I do? Anniversaries, both of the happy and tragic variety, come and go.
Shiloh was my soul partner, the love of my life. When he passed, he was not in Montana with me, but in Minnesota, at the farm he considered home, surrounded by friends of all species. Those he came to consider as family – his caretakers, vet and vet tech – were with him when he passed.
I wasn’t. But I see in hindsight that Shiloh orchestrated everything according to his wants. From his perspective, dying in Minnesota gave him the freedom to join me in Montana.
How Do You Cope When You Are Left Behind?
The other day I was listening to an episode of Why Shamanism Now, entitled Love in the Time of Chaos: Tools for Change. Host Christina Pratt was talking about the times we now live in and the Trickster energy that is so ever present. In this discussion, she included grief and grieving. Paraphrasing what she said:
“Stop talking about grief and do it. It’s not something you talk about it, it’s something you’re engaging in. It’s active movement, not stagnation. Real grieving never wallows. Don’t cultivate the art of wallowing. Our culture fears and denies death. It steers us away from what is required to really grieve. Not grieving creates ghosts who are trapped here, forcing us to make the same mistakes they did…..”
Hearing her words enabled me to look at this first year without Shiloh from a different perspective. Upon occasion this past year I accused myself of wallowing in grief. I wasn’t. I was experiencing a deep, profound and raw grief that touched the depth of my soul and beyond. There were days I wailed, I swore, I threw things. I couldn’t cope with everyday niceties and manners.
There were times I scared my dog Max with my grief. Shortly after Shiloh’s passing Max became ill. I asked colleague and good friend Kristen Scanlon to check in with Max to see what was going on. Max told Kris he was frightened, he’d never seen me grieve to this extent with any of the other animals. My grief was too fierce, he felt helpless and paralyzed by the force of it.
My grief acted as its own fire, burning itself out, liberating me from it in the process. Honoring Shiloh and our relationship in a way that would never have happened if I had merely wallowed in the grief.
A Year Later
Yes, I still grieve for Shiloh – why wouldn’t I? There are days when I am ambushed by those feelings, which is only natural. I deal with them and I move on, never forgetting or denying what Shiloh means to me.
This year of grief has forged a new relationship between me and Shiloh. It’s still unfolding and it’s a marvel to watch:
- I can’t help but smile when Max or one of the cats, Billy or Raven, will be going down the stairs and stop to pay obeisance by Shiloh’s picture. They’re obviously not waiting for me, they’re communing with Shiloh. Or rather, he’s communing with them
- I honor those bittersweet memories – like the time right after Shiloh passed and I went to pick up the mail. Someone from the stable had sent a card, which I opened immediately while I was standing in the parking lot. It contained a necklace and bracelet made from Shiloh’s tail and mane. I was openly sobbing in front of everyone
- Shiloh is the co-teacher in the animal communication classes I offer. I watch with wide-eye amazement as he works his angelic magic on the students, standing in compassion with them as they are having difficulties, or purposefully stepping on a foot to get their attention. (Yes, that truly happened!)
With much deliberation and with Shiloh’s complete approval, I will soon be participating in a ritual which will symbolize the spiritual commitment and connection we have. After Shiloh passed, I asked Intuitive Artist Ame Jo Hughes to paint a portrait of him. Both of us expected Shiloh to present himself as Shiloh. Instead, Shiloh presented himself as Phoenix Rising.
In January, on my birthday, I will be getting my first tattoo, Shiloh as the Rising Phoenix (pictured at left).
Getting this tattoo is a permanent, physical and daily commitment to Shiloh. As I said in my eBook Grieving Your Pet Over the Holidays, it is important to bear witness by creating a memorial. Bearing witness to Shiloh with this tattoo acknowledges that I have done what I can to conserve and honor the times we had together in the physical.
Shiloh lived well and died well, he is not a ghost. You can’t ask for anything better than that. I have grieved well this past year. I know mine and Shiloh’s journey together continues, albeit on different planes of existence.
May your own grief be full and engaging.
You are remembered, Buddy. You are loved forever and beyond.
Here’s To New Beginnings,