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Surviving Grief

Posted by Eliza, February 25th, 2015

In New England, as you’ve undoubtedly heard, over one hundred inches of snow and ice trap us in, oh so many ways! Our plaints – or rants- about the unusually harsh weather, remind me that when overwhelmed by nature, we experience loss: of independence, of material well-being, of freedoms, of human contact, of control over how we spend our time (Shoveling, chiseling icicles!), of peace of mind (What next?), and more. Many of us are feeling feel aggrieved, as seen in expressions of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

Despite the weather this past month, a hearty band of congregants from a local church met three times for what turned out to be a MOST appropriately titled workshop, “Making Light in the Darkness.” In timeless fashion, we honored the darkness within and without with candle light, storytelling, and sharing our successes as well as our stumblings. We tried different forms of spiritual practice, including Laugh Yoga – yes, it’s a real thing, Google it! Simply being together helped us regain our perspective and our hope.

By the third session, we trusted one another enough that we tackled sharing something intimate: we were asked to share when we fell in love with something (place, person, animal, etc.). Sitting in a dim, warm room on one of the coldest nights, we sat and wrote, remembering. Faces reflected puzzlement, joy, rue, and surprise. And we told our stories, full of love and passion, sadness and shyness, all kinds of feelings emerged and were witnessed quietly, tenderly. I won’t ever forget the power of that small circle to shatter our aloneness, our depression, our fear. This is what I offer those of you who are grieving: make time and space for sadness; reach out to compassionate folks; share your stories, memories, loves. And then let time, blessed time, do its healing work.

As we move toward spring, we’ll learn again that in reaching out to one another, supporting one another in ways large and small, and in letting go of some expectations we will gain meaning and depth: we may reach that final stage of grief – acceptance. Or a more meaningful and interconnected lifestyle. Or simply an awareness that we are indeed all in the same ice-bound boat. May we together breathe in peace, and breathe out love.
Berkshires 044

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Making the Golden Years With Your Pet Shine

Posted by Eliza, February 2nd, 2015

Our animal companions enrich our lives: they greet us with enthusiasm, they forgive easily, and they remind us to live in and for the moment. Their unconditional affection makes considering the end of their lives hard, even impossible for some. In my work with animal caregivers, I help people facing the many issues that arise during end-of-life care, and have found it a time when we can enrich their lives, as well as our own, by thinking ahead.

I’d like to offer a few thoughts based on my observations and the feedback from people I’ve accompanied on the final journey with their beloved:

We all want, for ourselves and for our beloved animals, a peaceful death, surrounded by loved ones, surrounded by comfort and beauty. More often death catches us off guard, posing tough, urgent questions. With some attention and honest conversations ahead of time, measures of peace and comfort can be found in the midst of crisis.

1) Talk with those involved in the animal’s life before old age or a health crisis hits about what makes up the quality of the animal’s life: for example, what would be a sign that the animal no longer wants to live; what would they hope for the final moments, in a natural death or euthanasia situation; who would like to be there, or not. And talk to your vet, again ahead of a crisis, about options for palliative care, should it be needed, or for at-home euthanasia. Take notes! Revise as you gain understanding or situations change. You’ll be glad to have them in an emergency to remind you of priorities and needs.

2) When it becomes clear that the end of life is coming close, enjoy your time with your pet as much as possible. We live on in memories, so make as many as possible: share a McDonald’s burger, or those chicken fingers your pet loves; go to the beach, even if your pet can no longer walk – sit and smell the air, listen to the gulls, feel the sand; talk with your pet and tell him/her how much you love him/her. And assure him/her you’ll be okay, and they’ll be okay – this is a passage you’re going through together. Cherish the time you have.

3) Trust that you know your animal well, and if you remain attentive and compassionate– some people even ask their pet- they’ll let you know when they are ready to pass on. And respect that some animals prefer to die in solitude.

4) You have a right to grieve your loss; you have a right to take the time you need to mourn. Seek out others who understand; take the time to make meaning through memorializing, telling stories, and other traditional ways we have of remembering and honoring our beloveds. The depth of your grief is a measure of your love.

In her prime

In her prime

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