I am sitting here with the heaviness of grief as my companion. Just when I felt like it was loosening its grip on me, it returned as an unwelcome guest.
Last Friday my husband and I made the painful decision to help our beloved Labrador Retriever, Abby, cross the Rainbow Bridge.
It seemed like her illness came on overnight and she declined quickly. One day she was playing tug-of-war with our French Bulldog puppy and the next she was bloated, lethargic and her playful zest was gone.
After several trips to the vet, including a specialist, we had no conclusive answers about the cause of her bloating. All the x-rays showed were the fluid that filled her body. The specialist told us that for $2,000+ they could run tests and probably make a final diagnosis. Yet, she said of all the things they suspect is the cause of her bloat, none of them were treatable.
Heartbroken, we decided not to pursue the tests since they gave us no hope that if they made an official diagnosis they could treat the illness. We brought her home and had 6 more days with her. We gave her lots of love and she gave us time to say our goodbyes.
Anyone that has had a beloved fur baby knows the pain of saying goodbye. It’s heartbreaking for everyone in the family, including the other animals in the house. Their loss leaves a huge void and we are left with deep grief.
Our precious Abby girl taught us so much joy. She entertained us. She joined us for swims in our pool, horseback rides, runs, and walks through the neighborhood. She loved to “help” my husband grill and cook. She greeted our guests with a butt sniff. If the guest was a child, she would greet them with a big, wet kiss that started at their chin and went up to their forehead. She would sit at my feet while I worked and start whining at 3:30, when she knew her dinnertime wasn’t until 5:00. She wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to feed her.
As I write this, her absence at my feet is painful. I miss her snores as she sleeps. I miss her looking into my eyes and telling me she loves me with her look of pure adoration. I miss her “reminding” me to take her on her walks after I finish my workouts. I miss her licking my hand while I’m meditating.
All this grief I feel over my Abby girl, ripped the thin scab that was starting to form over the grief of losing my Dad this past January.
Abby’s transition was the second transition that I was privy to witness this year. My Dad’s was the first. His soul traveled to the spiritual realm with me sitting by his side. It was an amazing sight to witness. I felt relief, happiness, and awe as I watched him take his final breaths. His struggle was over.
Cancer overtook his body quickly. Like a thief in the night it stole his voice, hearing, and his ability to walk. I saw the panic in his eyes when he struggled to breathe. It was the first time I saw my once strong, military man father appear scared. To see his struggle end in sweet, peaceful surrender was one of the most beautiful things I have experienced in my life.
I feel deep gratitude that I was there to hold my dad’s hand as he transitioned from his earthly body into the spiritual realm.
I feel deep gratitude that my husband and I were there hugging our Abby girl as she left her failing earthly body. I told her my dad was waiting for her. I believe he was.
I feel deep sadness over losing them both.
I miss my short and sweet phone conversations with my dad. I miss his crazy pranks and his sense of humor. I miss his laughter. I miss hearing him tell me he loves me. I miss every quirky, predictable thing about my dad.
At times my grief is heavy and crashes over me like big wave in the ocean. It knocks me down into wailing sobs and a seemingly endless flow of salty tears.
Other times I feel gratitude, peace, comfort, and joy for the countless memories of them both that I carry in my heart.
This grief is strange, bringing with it the wide contrast of emotions between deep sadness, relief, and joy. At times I feel lethargic and want to pull the covers over my head. Other times I feel bursts of inspiration and creativity.
Like life, grief is unpredictable. It’s going to have it’s way with me and I am learning to go with the flow and lean into whatever emotion is present, using my breath to carry me through. I know the only way through it is through it.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
~ Thích Nhãt Hânh