Dealing with Regrets

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – The words of nature writer Hal Borland

Perhaps the turning of the year, the coming of flowers and sunlight, is hard for you this season. Perhaps the beckoning of the outdoors reminds you of the swiftness of time, of a sad anniversary, or a past outdoor adventure with a cherished animal companion. For those of us who have lost a beloved friend, a passing season may renew our regret, or even bring self-recrimination.

Because we feel we know and are known by our pets, we can beat ourselves up for how confused or ignorant we might feel when making end-of-life decisions for them. Of course we do our best to imagine what they are feeling; we can listen to what the experts think; and we can still wish they would speak to us and help us know for sure what they are going through, what their wishes are, how we might help.

It’s hard to accept that we can’t know about something so important. And it can be hard to accept that we did the best we could, in the moment or moments we had. Self-acceptance might be, then, exactly what we are being called on to practice right now.

So here’s a practice that may be helpful when you’re drawn into that dark place: try sitting quietly, your body comfortably seated, with a calming focal point. Focus on a point or special image or candle flame. As you sit, concentrate only on your breathing. Imagine breathing into your very center that you are enough; breath in the wisdom that you did your utmost to love, to be present with, and to help ease suffering of your beloved. Breathe out thoughts of love, peace, or a warm farewell.

May the increasing light and warmth bring to us all a blossoming acceptance of ourselves and the completeness of our love.

 

Spring in the desert

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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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