Moving through grief. What does this even mean?
As a therapist in training I ran a small grief group. The weekly meetings across ten weeks were meaningful and significant — for the participants. Not to say those meetings were not important to me — I was learning, I was training, I was in the work. Yet, I was not in grief. For me, I understood and yet I did not understand at all what people were feeling. I could be present, empathize, hold space and contain feelings — but I could not move through grief that was not my own.
I realize this now as I have been experiencing a significant season of grief. I lost my Scottish Terrier on Thursday, February 4th 2021 around noon. Even eleven weeks later – notice how I still count the weeks from that week – I still mark the days of that week by how my Pepper walked through his final days and how I walked alongside him.
To say it has been a mysterious time is an understatement. I suppose my unique journey of moving through grief has been largely to dwell in the mystery and to go slow with myself feeling what I feel in the moment. Over this period of time I would often break out into tears as I listened to a song, saw him in my memory in all of his favorite places, felt robbed that he was gone so young and so fast. I didn’t bottle it up — all of my tears – instead I have let them flow.
Moving through grief has been marking his passing in significant ways — framing his paw print with a friend’s little memorial drawing of the letter “P” for his name — taking his hair clipping and making a piece of memorial jewelry that I wear close to my heart each day – creating a plan to scatter his ashes in his favorite place – being open to talking with him on a regular basis. I have my most favorite picture of him on my vanity table and I sit each morning there putting on my makeup and tell him about my day. Sometimes I light a Glassy Baby candle that captures my feeling toward him for that day — like Honor, Thank You, and To The Moon.
For a long time I was quiet. I was able to thank people through handwritten notes for their kindness of holding me in their thoughts, but for a long while I could not speak to anyone. Nor did I want to. I wanted to be quiet and hold him all to myself. These days I find I am having people over to my home and I show them where Bubby died and I can talk about how painful this season has been for me. I am finding my words. Also, I am learning that there are friends who will hold space for my pain and be present to me.
On some level, I hate to see the weeks roll on by. It adds up to more days without Pepper. He surely would have loved the sunshine and warm temperatures. He ruled his corner of the world and would be out all day long keeping guard over the neighborhood. He loved his walks — rain or shine — and always was up to play tug. The days keep moving forward and there is nothing I can do to stop time. I can only continue to hold close to myself and my memories as I move forward.
I love Maira Kalman and she has a book titled Beloved Dog that looks at dogs through her own whimsical lens. She had a dog whom she loved and lost, but in this book she also talks about losing her husband and she wrote something profound on a page that continues to stay with me during this period:
When Tibor died, the world came to an end. And the world did not come to an end. That is something to learn.
Indeed, I have so much to learn moving through grief.