A dear friend of mine passed away a couple of days ago and I find myself pierced with grief.  It’s a full mind, body, spirit engulfment, isn’t it?  It takes you deep within to those spaces within yourself that hold memories that both heal and sting, simultaneously.  It’s a precarious place unlike any other.  When I think “good grief,” it also amplifies for me that this grief is only possible because I allowed myself to love.  I allowed myself to be present in those shared moments of life without them being stripped or marred by the worry of “what if?”  I allowed myself to truly live and embrace the full cellular experience of the present moment.  I went there, without hesitation, and for that, the grief is good. 

In the past few months, I’ve had five animal friends pass away.  You see, to me, it’s not about a being’s form but all about the being within.  It’s the who, not the what.  Love doesn’t care about form when you’re laughing over a silly antic or god-smacked by the simple majesty of their ears blowing in the wind.  For me, working with animals as a dog walker, cat sitter, boarder, and canine massage therapist was the most cathartic time of my life.  I always felt like enough, and I knew that if I respected their needs, their ability or inability to connect, and I honored their fears, a powerful connection could be felt.  It’s listening beyond words to hear who they are, and that is such a humbling opportunity.  Maybe it’s that feeling of having really heard another, really embraced their fears, their personality, and helping to guide and comfort them that makes their losses resonate so profoundly.  I’m so grateful for this pain I feel as it speaks to what was shared. 

There is a lot of judgment around grief.  I remember someone once saying to me “You really should be over this by now.”  And I remember thinking… say’s who?  Now, sometimes we use grief to punish ourselves for what we feel we did or didn’t do in a relationship, and clearly that is not the healthiest way to process our loss.  However, if I’m being honest, I also see that as valuable to an extent, because it also asks us to take ownership of who we were and who we aspire to be, and hopefully, feel a motivation from the grief to take action toward that new place within.  Grief can also make us bitter when we feel something was thrust upon us; stripped from us that we didn’t deserve to lose.  And, in time, that grief may lead us to recognize that we are all individuals and, as much as we may have given or not given, we cannot control what others experience or the choices they make. 

To me, grief is a full spectrum of reflection.  It can be debilitating, motivating, a quiet ache in the soul; it can be brief; it can be decades; it can lead us to new paths within ourselves that feel unsure and even unsafe.  With us always choosing where on that path our grief leaves us, or if we pass through it to a beautiful new pasture of possibilities.  It’s powerful, and ultimately, it’s a reflection of how deserving we feel we are of moving forward, and how worthy we judge ourselves to be.

As we come together with those we love tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving, it may seem odd to speak of grief.  But, I believe grief can lead us to gratitude, or perhaps our gratitude amplifies our grief.  They are connected; reciprocal.  The more gratitude we experience in the moments of our life, the more connection, likely the more pain in their loss.  The more pain in their loss, the more gratitude we feel for what we were allowed ourselves to experience, and we carry that forward. 

Perhaps you know there are relationships you hold where your gratitude feels challenged?  Where you haven’t envisioned life without them. Where you are enduring them.  But, what if you insisted in yourself that you would find a grain of gratitude?  Perhaps it’s as simple as, I’m grateful to recognize the strength within me for being here.  Perhaps it’s gratitude for your awareness that you hold strong beliefs about life and others do too?  Perhaps it’s gratitude for how much these challenges motivate you to seek flexibility in your spirit?  It’s these moments of your life that determine the paths our hearts will take in times of grief.  If we can be open to finding and embracing the love in another, our life course will surely be metamorphosed, and our grief, good grief. 

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