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A Double Whammy: Grief and Regret

Posted by Eliza, July 6th, 2016

Do you have regrets? Do you revisit them ? Does your regret shadow a loss? Intensify your grief? You are not alone, and perhaps  it might help to consider this together.

Most of us try our best to live lives that are full, worthwhile and without regret – or at least free of major regrets. That’s a tall order, for we are only human. Being human asks a lot of us, body, mind, and spirit. And when it comes to relationships, we do our best, most of the time, and try to make amends when we fail. We do our darnedest to learn from our mistakes.

In our human relationships, the person we’re reaching out to, working with, being with, has their own ideas, thoughts, feelings and baggage – things we’re not in control of and about which even they may barely be aware. It’s complicated, as the movie line goes!

With our animal companions, it’s a little different. Living with them, being with them, meeting their needs, we come to read their body language – and sometimes their vocalizations – pretty well. I remember being delighted to realize that my beloved guinea pig, Cheyenne, had such a variety calls: one for greeting me, another for being hungry, and a blissful purr when I rubbed him behind his pink, translucent ears.

If he had baggage, he’d gotten over it as far as I could tell. And that’s how it is with animal companions – most live more in the moment; they’re less complicated. And that’s how loving them is, too. They forget and forgive so easily!

When we love our animal companions, when we have tried to give them the best life we can, the best love we can, and the least painful and most merciful passing from life we can –  imperfect as our best efforts might sometimes be, we can open ourselves to the possibility of grace. We cannap-time-tabby-cat-23441279627174CGTm release ourselves from regret. Grief is hard enough to bear without adding anything that heavy to our load.

If you’re carrying regret, I urge you to pick up three stones – one for life, one for love, and one for life’s end. Find a natural place – the corner of a park, a creekside, or the base of a tree. Offer each stone back to the earth, saying to yourself as you do so, “I did my best to love/to give a good life/to release you at life’s end.” Go in peace, carrying your love forward.

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Mindfulness, Plus Fur

Posted by Eliza, September 18th, 2015

photo 3-8Like many of you, animals have been an important part of my life since before I can remember. When I was four or five, we had a lovely cat (with eyeliner Liz Taylor would have envied) named Sheba.

I still hold onto the guilt I felt after she ran away: I was sure it was because I tried to feed her the cornflakes into which I’d experimentally dumped a little orange juice. As an adult I know she probably was reacting to our impending move, but part of me still wonders why she left me. Our animal companions become such a part of our inner as well as our outer lives that we often hold their memories tight, and long after they’re gone.

Today, though, I want to bless them, to thank them and to sing praises for our fellow animals, especially the ones who humble their wild selves to live with us. They love us, forgive us, and most of all, remind us of the time.

I don’t mean dinner time, though that’s of vital importance: the dog stares hauntingly into your eyes, the cat rubs her whole self along your legs, and the guinea pigs squeal their lettuce greeting. And they let us know that they have hungers, just like we do.

No, I mean time, as in what little we mortals have upon this earth. My little dog turns nine in a few weeks, and I’m delighted with how well she’s doing. Sure, she has a bit of arthritis, and she’s carrying a bit of extra weight because it curtails our walks sometimes. (So am I, for that matter.) But she loves to chase balls, play “catch me” with her stuffed toys, and chase squirrels and cats away – you see the theme. She revels in stinks and pee mails on our neighborhood rounds. She’s feisty when she feels threatened, and so loving when we settle in for the night. She’s alive!

And I treasure each day, each moment, each moonset and sun rise because of her constant reminder to enjoy it. Now. I’m more alive thanks to her.

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