All things change. That's just a truth we can't get around. You get married, your puppy chews your favorite shoe, a parent dies, you get a new job, it's sunny, it's rainy, the container of spice is empty, the bed is made. Change is just a fact. Yet, I still struggle with feeling like change is either positive or negative. My dog gets sick and dies, negative. I get a huge portion of my most favorite meal to eat on my birthday, positive. Right?
The loss of an animal family member is so painful, I'm often left feeling hollowed out inside. I also know that I still have to function, hold down a job, and create a safe place for my children and other animals to have their own reactions to the loss. Truth be told, at those times it's hard not to think, "I really don't want to be the adult right now."
However, when I step back, beyond the platitudes, "You were lucky to have had so much time with him. I know a dog's life is much to short compared with my own. She's out of pain now. You were so lucky to have fulfilled your dream of having a horse", I can begin to see things more as they are, neither positive nor negative, but simply part of the ever present change that is life.
That void, while never filled by another animal, does allow for a new space to open in my heart, where I can connect with yet another soul. It gives me opportunity to teach my children that to love, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, knowing we can't stop the inevitable pain that comes with loss. But, we can allow ourselves to honor our loved one, not only with our grief, but with our eventual ability to move past that and love again, to remember that each soul I've loved, no matter their form, has taught me valuable lessons needed to be who I am today.
The birthday dinner I gorged on, made my stomach hurt all night. Apparently too much of a good thing really can be a bad thing; that's a timely lesson that my willful denial keeps at bay. But, feeling my heart break and rebuild over and over, each time stronger, wiser, and each time more capable of deeper connections than I thought possible, for that I'll embrace the pain and sadness. I wouldn't have it any other way.
While at the moment, all my family, human and non-human, are doing well, I know that there will be a time when this too will change, just as the cycle has repeated so many times before. For those of you struggling through grief and loss now, my heart is with you. Being gentle with ourselves when we are in pain is often one of the hardest lessons to learn. I hope my message of change may remind you that there are more rooms in your heart to be built out of the very love that your loss has left you. What an amazing gift.