Several months ago my animal friend, Scarlet, let me know our time together was coming to an end. I heard her, took note, but pushed it down to the depths of me.
I’ve experienced traumatic grief a few times in my life. There are several instances in my childhood, but three in my adulthood that I can wrap my arms around and find the lessons.
The first was when I lost my baby at seven months pregnant. My lesson from this experience was: my grief is not just my own. Even with something as personal as losing a baby, that grief had a blanketing effect and many grieved with me. Honoring others’ pain instead of my own was a distraction for that time, but I put my extreme pain aside and tended to others first, much to my detriment later.
The second was my divorce. My lesson then was: speak your pain. I found when I finally started talking about my grief, it created an overwhelming amount of healing. This was difficult for me as I’m a very private person and spend much of my time working with others, so discussing my own challenges, took a strong and conscious effort.
The third was on Easter Sunday when I lost Scarlet unexpectedly. Deep down I knew it was coming, but it was still unexpected. Scarlet has been my friend for more than ten years. She was stuck to my side and loved me unconditionally. As I deconstruct my pain of losing her I take into account my past lessons. Allow yourself to grieve and speak your pain.
I’m a single mom and Scarlet and I loved each other; we were family. She kept me company, kept me smiling, and kept me warm every night. She was my safe space and I was hers. She also brought joy to my boys, loved my ex-husband, and was very close to my neighbor. We are all grieving the loss of this sweet soul. I miss her. My house is not the same.
My new lessons: grief is compounding and full of guilt. Grief is indeed full of stages that fluctuate. One of the first things for me was a train-wreck of questions: did I do enough in that moment she passed, did she know I loved her, did I somehow cause this, did I not do enough because I knew deep down this was coming and ignored it—it hurt too bad for me to face it. Did she know I loved her… did she really know.
After she was gone my first response was to apologize. Why? Why did I immediately take on so much guilt? Human’s are raised on guilt and shame so in reality it makes sense, but it is NOT conducive to my healing nor her memory. I’m still battling through that stage but know deep down I loved her deeply and she loved me.
Grief is compounding. One of my favorite quotes is by Sappho, “What can not be said, will be wept.” When I didn’t speak my pain 14 years ago, it manifested in many other ways. My loss then, took 10 years before I began to face it head on. I still find pieces to heal and I know I always will.
I’ve been grieving our current state of the world, how it’s affected not only me and my family, but everyone. I had stagnate grief and when that wound was ripped open by my loss, everything bled over. It all twists together into a messy and raw palate that is difficult to make out if you’re not paying attention.
I’m working hard to pay attention. I’m looking deeply at the wounds that lay open and vulnerable on my body right now.
More new lessons: handle your grief as it comes. I want to face my pain and not leave wounds to become infected. I want to turn my tragedy’s into triumphs and learn to honor what is lost, and not hide from it. I want to draw the strength and use the tools I have been providing to others for years. My lessons in pain are not to be pilfered away, but drawn from.
I’m doing several things to get through this extremely painful time:
- Talking about it. This is very challenging for me, but I am starting here.
- Breath work. This is a tremendous pain reliever and very powerful.
- Meditating/Praying. This is where I will find my peace with me, my loss, and my relationship with Scarlet.
- Gratitude & Hope. This is easier for me than I know it can be for others. Hope comes naturally for me, even in grief. There is healing in acknowledging gratitude and hope every day, and being diligent in that quest.
I deeply miss my sweet and hilarious, Scarlet. She was a bright star that can not be replaced. I loved and respected her. My pain runs deep with her loss and my days will never be the same.
Grief is a monster that can quickly get out of control. Honor your grief and find what resonates for you to heal. There is no right or wrong and no time-frame. Be kind to yourself.