Grief is one of those things that can be complicated. While I’ve never sought formal training in being a grief coach or a grief therapist, it’s something that I’ve experienced in my years of practice. I’ve worked in hospice settings and in many hospitals where anticipatory grieving and grieving after a loved one has passed happened frequently. But there’s a significant level of less understanding for people who have lost a pet. Pet (especially dogs) are extensions of our families. My dog Sam was with me from high school all the way up until I finished my doctorate. He was a companion, pain in the butt, loyal friend, and a good listener. He didn’t have any safety awareness and tended to run up to cars instead of away. While he was brave in biting bigger dogs, his 13lb body shook from fear when there was a thunderstorm close by. He hated to have his paws touched but loved to find an empty lap to jump on and sleep. Overall, he was fairly mellow and didn’t have the explosive constant energy that was indicative of his breed. He usually slept through the night but on some occasions he wanted to go out every hour on the hour. Even after a year of him being gone I still miss him but I appreciate all the memories that I have of him. If there’s a doggie heaven I hope we’ll meet again.
It’s rare that I find articles that discuss being an empath and I found a great one here. So much of our self image is shaped by our perception of the world. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found more value in disconnecting for a bit in order to recharge. I’ve also learned the importance of protecting my space and being mindful of energies that drain me. There are countless challenging moments but self soothing can work wonders as well as getting out my head a bit and finding a worthy distraction.
Sometimes I think that it’s easier to process through writing than it is through speaking. There’s the opportunity to delete, revise and edit in the writing process and talking out loud doesn’t come with those same privileges. I remember either hearing or reading somewhere about Reason, Season, and Lifetime people and I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in my own life. It’s fairly easy to meet seasonal people. You cross paths with them while doing routine activities like going to work or attending a class. Being in a familiar place again has been eye opening and also challenging in a way that I had not anticipated. There’s something to be said about feeling the push and pull of relationships that seem to hover between the Reason and Lifetime. It’s one of those grey areas that can be a bit anxiety provoking because you don’t quite know what the outcome will be. There can be emotions that catch you off guard because the process is full of surprises along with disappointments. While you may have a preference, there’s not guarantee that the cards will play out the way that you want them to. The process isn’t linear because relationships and emotions aren’t linear and they rarely fit into a nice neat little box. The perfect solution in your head is at odds with the conflicting emotions in your heart. There is no easy answer because the questions are too complex. It’s almost like making a house out of cards and wondering which card will crumble the whole deck. One thing that I can appreciate is that the process makes you take an honest inventory of yourself in the context of relationships. Time can often be the deciding factor of which category the relationships will land in.
I have to say that this previous week has been pretty stressful as it’s been a huge change in the daily routine that I have gotten used to. I’m normally someone who can adapt quickly but the absence of afternoon naps was really difficult. I found it hard to catch up on sleep and as a result I did not feel rested. I encountered some difficult news and also had an realization that was difficult to process. Disappointment is a part of life and sometimes it just can’t be anticipated. Things change unexpectedly without warning and we have to roll with the punches. I’m finding that experiencing multiple disappointments does not make each one any easier to handle. There is always the process of finding a way to make peace with the new normal or the new circumstance. You have results or an ending that you did not anticipate and you have to create a different plan because things have changed. It’s rough because in some ways you have to mourn the ending that you wanted but never received while recognizing the need to change priorities and focus. I think that there’s also a certain level of annoyance and frustration that accompanies disappointment because of the sheer inconvenience of having to make an unplanned adjustment. However, it’s one of those things that are unavoidable. How we respond to these disappointments says a lot about our resiliency and ability to adapt. But it’s a tough place to be in.
I ran across an article recently and it described many of my thoughts and feelings as I reflect on my life and the past few years specifically. Life can be challenging for empaths and feeling your own emotions plus the emotions of others can be taxing and difficult. On the professional front it took me years to be able to sleep without staying up and worrying about the problems that my clients had. There aren’t many things I read where I find myself agreeing with almost everything the author states and I have to admit that this author shared a fear that I have as well. And maybe fear is the wrong word because it’s not a perception and there is a good chance that it might happen. You can read the article here. There’s a huge opportunity for growth when we are willing to be honest with ourselves and face our fears head on despite not always feeling adequate to do so. It’s not a quick thing but I think that the results are worth the self-work and intentionality that are required.
This week has been one of the most emotionally challenging ones that I’ve had in a while. I had to to say goodbye to my dog that I have had since I was 16 or so. He was quirky, stubborn, spoiled, and a bit slow at times but he was mine. I remember when my family first got him. He jumped into our car after we opened our garage one day and just stuck around. He lived in four different states and took road trips from Georgia to Michigan and Colorado. The great thing about him was that he was very good-natured and loved children. I never had any worries about him becoming aggressive as he was always incredibly gentle. He had the most expressive brown eyes that expressed his displeasure when he didn’t get the food he wanted or he wasn’t taken outside soon enough. He also loved carbohydrates in all forms including pasta, pie dough, and ramen and preferred a boiled egg to any type of dog food. He slept beside me every night for years and would often hog my pillow as he sprawled out across the bed. He was alive for every major heartbreak of my adult life as well as some teenage ones. Unlike most dogs of his breed he enjoyed chilling out and wanted to be held and cuddled most of the time. He would often fall asleep on my lap or chest as I was doing my homework. He hated loud noises which included gunshots and fireworks. Whenever it stormed I would stay up with him all night because he was so scared and would shake uncontrollably. He was lost on several occasions, he was trapped in a hole for a day, he suffered a brain injury from an attack from another dog, and he almost hung himself from our deck after jumping off and getting caught by his leash. He also ran towards cars instead of away from them. This dog was a freaking walking miracle. And yet he remained unbothered and continued to demonstrate poor safety awareness up until the very end. He was the perfect sized dog to pick up and pull out of any immediate danger rather quickly. Despite all his flaws I knew that he loved and trusted me until the very end when he put his little head on my chest and sighed before he went to sleep forever. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He lived a long, adventurous and full 17 years and I’ll miss him forever. Life will never be the same without him and his quirks.
As this year of my life starts to come to a close I realize that there’s a lot that I want to do. While I have definitely had some milestones this year that included finishing my PhD, I’m not satisfied yet. Working in a hospital again has reminded me of how short life really is. I’ve had numerous patients who have passed away without any warning. I’ve had a lot of major changes that were unexpected but I also got hired on to my dream job (at least past time). So far I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel a little bit and I’ve visited 8 countries. I’m hoping to develop a good work life balance in the coming year and maybe flex my entrepreneurial muscles just a bit. The whole dating thing has absolutely been a bust so far so I figure I’ll just set goals around what I can control. Here’s to bigger and better things.