“The only way out is through” ~Robert Frost
A few days ago, my beloved 13 year old dog Edgar died in my presence due to complications of congestive heart failure. His passing revealed a lot about my inclination to suppress, buffer and judge my painful feelings. Despite my years of studying human behavior and emotional resilience, I was looking for an exit. I wanted to escape the intense pain and grief that was in front of me until I was honest. Honest with myself first and then with all of you.
When we left the vet’s office with just his collar, I suppressed my pain. I changed the subject when it was brought up. I re-directed my thoughts to happier places and tried to shield my girls for the intensity of their sadness. But guess what? Internal pain will always come up, and when we suppress these feelings they just get stronger. So strong was my pain that I could not physically hold back the tears and move forward without it. In an attempt to rush it, I asked some trusted friends how they got over it when they lost their dog, and one friend told me to be patient to “feel all the feels”. I don’t know if she realized it or not, but she gave me permission to grieve. The floodgates opened up, and I leaned in.
When I leaned into the grief, many of the lessons I have learned over the years emerged. I remembered that radical acceptance is the cornerstone to happiness. I remembered someone telling me that discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life, and finally I remembered that emotions don’t own us, they are just information/data points.
These emotions were telling me that I had a tremendous attachment to my dog. I was feeling the loss of unconditional love, something another dear friend pointed out to me. Each and every time I would enter the house without him, these emotions reminded that I missed his love. This made me appreciate the fact that I am an animal lover and can take great pride in that. I started writing his vet’s office a card thanking them for the years of treatment they provided. I also made out a donation to local animal rescue. I also showed my girls that their emotions were telling them the same and most importantly that it is okay to be sad. We had long honest discussions about how all living things die and need to be grieved. That sadness is part of this messy human experience.
The next day was my day to record my FB live Thought Tools Tuesday video, and I started to judge my emotions. Instead of talking about my loss, fearing that people would think it was stupid, or irrelevant, I prepared another lesson. I began to give it and the tears welled up, so I decided to be honest. I didn’t put make-up on to cover my puffy eyes, I just went for it and told the truth. Out of this truth, came so much support. Several emails, texts, and messenger messages came through. When you let go of what you should feel and start to feel what you really feel, people connect and reach out. Lesson learned.
In summary, here are the lessons I have learned so far from the loss of Edgar that I hope help support you….
~Don’t rush to the exit door/escape your emotions b/c those emotions are trying to tell you something
~Emotions don’t own you, they are just information
~Let go of what you should feel and open your heart to what you really feel
~When you are real/authentic, other people see that and connect with you, because they feel it, or have felt it too
~Denial doesn’t work long-term
~Food or alcohol doesn’t solve the issue. Self-love and connection does.
More to come my friends. Have an awesome weekend. Don’t forget to train your mind as hard as you train your body to live a meaningful life.
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