Gifts of Grief
I lost a loved one this fall. Our little dog Lexy crossed the Rainbow Bridge on October 10th. My relationship with this sweet companion was born in deep need, on both of our parts, for unconditional love and stalwart support; no questions asked. We met when both of us were in serious need of a good friend. And what a being she was!
From the beginning Lexy has been extremely flexible, happy to travel long hours in the car, happy to lie quietly under the massage table as I work, and happiest of all to be outside. And always a bonus for her has been the people. She has been the complete expression of unconditional love, especially for those who are suffering. In her innocent joy of life she would run to greet those she had a special connection with, leaping to get closer to their faces, to greet them with a hundred kisses. A friend called her an ambassador of love, a fitting title.
Lexy’s death was unexpected, on the heels of a physical trauma from which she might have easily recovered. Perhaps some sort of PTSD added to her challenges, but it was clear that an underlying dormant health issue was activated and eventually took her life. The suddenness of it all was nearly impossible to comprehend. I felt responsible for her death, for I was one of the primary care takers of this innocent life. I was grief stricken to the point of dropping to my knees and wailing in sorrow.
I have wanted to share a story about this, yet without the perspective that time and space offers it has been difficult to find the words, difficult to make sense of it all. I can’t say I have come to any big revelations or larger perspectives about this loss, but I do have some new and emerging perspectives on grief. I am coming to understand what grief means, the vital role that grief plays in life, the gifts it has to offer.
The first gift that I experienced through this time of grief is the falling away of everything else. I had the experience of dwelling almost entirely in the present moment, for no other moments mattered. All thoughts about the past and future seemed irrelevant and trivial. And my grief was so all consuming at times that I felt no other emotion—a big deal for this astrologically watery person that I am. This high degree of presence has been like the clearest bell ringing, a spiritual awakening. It opened me.
Another gift of grief is that it brought my values into clear perspective. I became acutely aware of what matters most to me. Grief brought my unlived life to me, led me to rapidly and radically change the course of my life. Francis Weller in “The Wild Edge of Sorrow” talks about the strange intimacy between grief and aliveness as a “sacred exchange between what seems unbearable and what is most exquisitely alive.”
And grief offered an end to my sorrow over losing my four-legged friend. For grief is a process, sometimes sorrow-filled, but much bigger. Working through this process has shown me the power of grief to wash away regret and loss, to bring true peace. In “The Smell Of Rain On Dust”, Martin Prechtel refers to Grief as the best friend of Praise. “Grief is a worker on life’s big highways, and Praise is Grief’s eternal freight train, forever hauling the vision of life’s bigger picture from stars whose light hasn’t got here yet, which Grief uses to refill the potholes of our losses.”
When her mother died a dear friend Carol Laughing Waters said of her grieving process, “Death is a doorway of discovery.” I am beginning to understand. Perhaps one day I will have a story to tell about losing Lexy, but for now I am grateful for the process of discovery that the gifts of grief have opened to me.
This post was written by Lucinda Sohn