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


What kinds of healing are needed to help us midwife our beloved into a good death? Once physical pain has been relieved, emotional and social suffering can be perceived more clearly and helped more successfully. Then, finally, spiritual suffering – which includes the need to make meaning of pain and loss – can be addressed. This is the guiding principle of hospice care for humans as well as other animals.

Recently I was invited to the orientation of new staff members of the New England Pet Hospice and Home Care, to share with new staffers what my role as the spiritual advisor/chaplain may involve. I told them that I was there for them as well as for patients and clients, since the nursing they do in such tough situations can take a spiritual toll. I offered them the following blessing, which offers compassion and gratitude for the work of caring. I share it with all who need it today.

Praise the Work of Our Hands

Simple things get lost.
Look, for instance, at hands,
tools of great beauty, strength and courage.
Let us praise the work of our hands,
their holding and cleaning,
their mending and calming,
their patient waiting in birth
and grace in ushering death.

Praise the quiet hands
holding all time in their palms,
and the busy hands,
knitting up wounds.
Praise the jazz hands,
keeping time with our joy,
and the cradling hands, soothing as sleep.

Praise the work of our hands,
And may they realize the highest
intentions of our hearts and minds.
Paw– May it be so. Blessed be. Amen.