Perspectives on Grief and Chasing Rainbows

It’s been exactly two weeks to the day since our family said goodbye to our dear friend Rocky. Today would have been his 17th birthday.

When we lose someone we love and are in the thick of grief, it seems normal to want the pain to go away so we can just feel better. We generally want to resume our “normal” routine and just get on with our lives. I’ve witnessed a definite sense of impatience, both in myself and in others, along with the desire for these unpleasant feelings to pass as quickly as possible. But as I continue to process the grief of losing my first (fur) baby, consummate lap dog, and sidekick extraordinaire, I have to question whether I’m doing myself any favours with the ‘suck it up and get over it quick’ approach.

I’m pretty new to this whole grief thing, relatively speaking anyway. Sure, I’ve lost grandparents and other relatives, and most definitely faced sadness as a result of loss, but somehow this time with my dog feels different. It is a profoundly deep sense of sadness and loss unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced before.

Maybe it’s because Rocky was much more than just a dog or family pet. In his latter years, he was the doppelganger of Falkor, the luckdragon from The Neverending Story. He was a fierce protector of babies and our home. He was a sensitive, caring companion; a gentle and kind, loyal and loving little dog. He had the most beautiful calm, soothing presence. He was a small dog with a great, big personality. Rocky was not only smart but also very wise, which forms the basis of my belief that he was basically an old soul wrapped up in a little fur coat.

youngpup

Our souls, Rocky’s and mine, only saw the absloute best in each other. There’s no question in my mind that he was gifted to me by the universe. He chose me to be his momma, and I believe our souls had a contract to help facilitate each other’s growth in this lifetime. Most importantly, I know he loved me without question or condition, and I, in turn, loved him with everything I had.

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Jamie Anderson

Rocky&me

I’ve learned how unhealthy it is to suppress emotion, rather than allow it to flow through us and be processed as it is intended, by its very nature. I’m sensitive at the best of times, but lately I’ve found myself crying more often than not. Although the bouts of sadness are becoming less frequent as time marches on, I continue to allow my tears to flow whenever the need washes over me. In the first few days after Rocky passed, I was angry and irritable. I experienced extreme fatigue, headaches, food aversion, and mild nausea for almost a full week. Apparently, these are all common physical side effects associated with grieving. Huh, who knew?

Yup, this grief thing is definitely tricky, and not at all what I expected. But I’ve essentially placed myself right in the epicenter of an emotional storm and readied myself to ride it out for as long as it takes. It’s nowhere near the most pleasant thing I’ve ever done, but I do believe there’s value in staying the course—standing fully in my grief, unguarded and unprotected, and feeling my way through it, even in the face of the wind and unrelenting rain.

Over the last month of his life, I talked with a number of friends who offered their perspectives, as I struggled to come to terms with being responsible for making the final decision about when it would be ‘his time’. I recall a conversation in which one friend offered that, although Rocky had been part of our lives for close to 17 years and I certainly needed him for various reasons during that time, perhaps I had evolved to the point where I no longer required his wisdom and companionship via his continued physical presence. We also talked about our perspectives around what happens to a soul when the physical body can no longer be sustained.

Interestingly, Rocky appeared to my husband in his dream the very night after we said goodbye. He was licking my husband’s bald head, as he so often did during his time with us, and spoke with real words and a human voice. Rocky clearly told my husband that he was alright, and that he supports our family getting another dog when we we’re ready.

This put my mind at ease a bit. I was relieved to have some confirmation that Rocky was now without pain and seemingly at peace, but at the same time I was disheartened that I hadn’t received a sign or message from Rocky directly, myself. That was until a few days later when I began to notice a pattern—something just slightly out of the ordinary and with enough repetition to actually take note.

You guys, I am fully aware that you may not believe what I’m about to say. In fact, you may even think I’m a stark raving lunatic, but that’s okay. I’m not sure whether I am clairsentient, or if I’m just a heartsick fool whose feeling lost and desperately searching for meaning after the recent passing of her dog, but either way, I believe Rocky (or the energy of his spirit) has been presenting itself to me.

Why do I think this, you ask? Because I keep seeing rainbows—like everywhere, all over my house. Well, I suppose they’re not technically rainbows, but rather bands of colour and dispersions of light similar to the effect of a prism. But it hasn’t been just once or twice—it’s been pretty much daily for the past 10 days or so.

This is the part I find incredibly fascinating: when I was creating my vision board at the end of December 2019, which coincidentally was around the same time that Rocky’s health took a serious downturn, I came across the word “rainbow” written in script font and filled in with pretty colours. I was perplexed, and even struggled to justify to myself why I would need to have this on my vision board, but I did. It didn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. I even tried to remove it from among the collage of other words and images in an attempt to save space, but something inside me wouldn’t allow it, and literally insisted that it must be included. And without any further explanation or argument, I just decided to leave it.

rainbow

Now, my vision board lives in my office (which I have been hard-core avoiding lately, by the way), but I had to go in there the other day to grab something. That’s when I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye and did a complete double take. It was at that exact moment that everything clicked and I made the “rainbow connection.” I started to sob uncontrollably, except they were tears of joy in having my suspicion confirmed that Rocky’s spirit and energy are present with me still. It’s like he’s been saying “hi” to me in the sweetest way possible, and my heart swelled at the realization of our soul’s continued connection.

As more days have passed and I finally found the courage to pick up Rocky’s ashes to ensure he’s with us on his birthday and forever after, I’ve noticed a slight shift in my perspective. While there’s no mistaking that I’m still sad, I am also making the effort to intentionally reflect on the good times and to focus on all the love for him that will always live in my heart.

I’m still crying quite a bit, although not nearly as much as in the first few days after he passed. The logical, rational part of my brain knows that storms don’t last forever—not even the emotional ones. And I know the sun will eventually come out and shine down on me again.

With this simple thought I remember, yet again, how people, situations, and yes—even animals—have the ability to crack us wide open. But it in being open to the experiences, the feelings and the lessons, allowing it all and being vulnerable through the process…this is where we realize our own capacity for growth and change.

In his life Rocky taught me about unconditional love, giving me the chance to experience the deepest and most pure form of love I’ve ever known. Through his death, I am now learning how to see the beauty in my pain, as has been shown to me in the eternal nature of his spirit, his enduring love, and of course in every rainbow I will see until the end of time.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Rocky dog!

You may also want to check out the blog I wrote a couple years ago about the many lessons Rocky taught me during his lifetime: old dog // new tricks.

Chapter 43: Love is a Unique Achievement

Hello, loves. It’s me, My Phare Lady. Remember me?

It’s been quite some time since I’ve felt like writing, and what’s more, since I’ve felt like I had anything of interest or value to share. Being locked into a pretty solid funk since September of 2018 hasn’t helped, either.

Let’s just say these past 12 months have felt particularly draining and heavy. The time has dragged so slowly it felt like I was attempting to run through molasses. Yet—strangely, somehow—days, weeks, and months passed in the blink of an eye. The monotony of my daily responsibilities squeezed me like a vice, the pressure leaving me with an absence of desire to do anything more than the bare minimum.

After facing an initial series of strikes and blows about this time last year, I chose to get still and quiet. I was trying to stay present, to really feel into the sensations of the beliefs and emotions that were locked inside the cells of my body and keeping me jailed in a prison of my own making. But as the feelings of shame and discomfort continued to swell until I was almost certain they would swallow me whole, I slipped back into some familiar patterns.

I neglected my own needs and set aside most of the self-care practices that had generally kept me functional and (reasonably) sane. I numbed out the uncomfortable feelings and immersed myself in frivolous distractions. And through it all I used the excuse of being too “busy” to do the things I claimed were most important to my heart—to my happiness and wellbeing.

Maybe that’s why I am so incredibly grateful for the return of September—because it’s always felt like my ‘new year’. Historically speaking, it has been a time of re(birth), renewal, and new beginnings. It’s a time to wipe the slate clean and start anew. Not to mention, the time has come to close this last chapter of my life so I can begin the next—one in which I am the author of my own story.

*********************************************************

My kids’ schools are located just a few blocks away from each other in a mature neighbourhood in the town where we live. One of the best things about this area, in my opinion, is that it features the grandest trees (60-80 feet tall, on average) with the most majestic foliage. The other day at school pick up time, I nearly stopped in the middle of the road as I was driving when I noticed how the leaves had suddenly turned to the most brilliant shades of rust, gold, and even deep purple. The result was a glorious canopy of fall colour that shimmered gently overhead in the autumn breeze. Not only was it a splendid sight to behold, but also it reminded me (again) how there is so much beauty all around, if only we choose to see it and be open to truly receive.

As if right on cue with the changing of the leaves and the season, my outlook has shifted quite dramatically. My energy is increasing, and the promise of hope and possibility are returning to me once again. I am moving my body more, and remembering each day how glorious it feels to be outside—to take in nature’s splendor with all my senses, and to appreciate every aspect of my life as I welcome each new breath of fresh air into my lungs. Dare I say it’s almost as if I’ve been wandering around in the dark, wondering if I would ever see the sun again, when I finally feel a little warmth at my back and a glimmer of light on my cheek.

Everything seems just a little bit ‘brighter’ at the moment. My disposition, just a bit sunnier. Although fall’s official arrival is just around the corner, I have some extra spring in my step these days. While I’m not able to pinpoint why, exactly, I don’t even think the “why” matters much. All I know is that I am excited to welcome with open arms this change in my life’s season.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent a lot of time—far too much, really—worrying about how I am perceived by others, preoccupied with being accepted, and concerned about whether people like me. My previous operating system was entirely based on the fear and limiting belief of not being enough, or perhaps even too much, for others. In this new season of my life; however, I am turning over a new leaf by renewing my focus on gratitude, bravery, and above all, self-love. This shift has me feeling both refreshed and liberated.

So instead of recalling all the ways I’ve failed in the past (and the ways in which I believe others have failed me), and rather than analyzing and attempting to control the inevitably uncontrollable future, I’m consciously and courageously choosing to return to presence and the practice of gratitude. Because it’s nearly impossible to separate one from the other, this process also has me coming back to the importance of embracing love over fear.

Over time and through the lens of my life’s experiences, I’ve really come to understand how fear is an extreme form of rejection, whereas love, on the other hand, is the ultimate form of acceptance. When I think of these qualities in those terms, it shifts my way of thinking to a whole new perspective with a different meaning.

Although it’s been difficult in many ways, this past year has taught me so much. Most important of all, it has shown me that, in order to achieve the inner peace and harmony I want, everything I do—every action and reaction—must originate from gentle, loving acceptance. This perspective also reminds me to view my life with loving kindness, to speak and act from love, to remain open to receiving the energy of love, and, most importantly, to love myself first so that I may be able to extend my love to others.

LOVE

It’s been an interesting year…

I haven’t been that visible in this online space, but rest assured I’m still here.

I am not making any excuses about where I’ve been, and I will not be making grand claims about what I plan to do in the future. (The beauty of being present is in taking one baby step at a time.)

This is just me sharing a glimpse of how I am evolving, while at the same time staying grounded in who I am; remembering what I stand for and why I am here.

This is me loving and accepting who I am in this moment, while not giving up on the person I want to become.

There is no doubt about it—this thing called life can be challenging at times. It’s both undeniable and totally ok. No one ever said it would be easy. And in case anyone out there needs a reminder, it’s alright to not be ok all of the time. (I keep seeing this message all over social media, but it bears repeating here, nonetheless.) You can surely count on the fact that life will knock you down, and also that you’ll need to pick yourself up off the floor, wipe off the dust and dirt, and be willing to try again the next day.

And I suppose that’s really what this post represents—me picking myself up off the floor for about the 8,376th time in my life. And after all I’ve seen, done, and been through in the past 43 years, all I really know to be true for sure is that:

  • Living in the energy of love feels infinitely better than constantly being motivated by fear.
  • Keeping your heart open to love through the difficult times ain’t easy, but it is worth it.
  • Loving and accepting myself exactly as I am, flaws and all, is the secret sauce to feeling whole.
    –AND–
  • A willingness to continue to return to love through all of life’s triumphs and hardships, is, indeed, a unique achievement.

“If I asked you to name all the things you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”

It’s taken me the better part of 43 years to figure it out, but now that I have, I’m ready for my next chapter.

 

 

Remembering What Women Have Always Known

The women who were our ancestors knew so many things that many modern western women seem to have forgotten.

I’m not talking about how they knew how to wash clothes by hand, turn wheat into flour to make bread, or how to spin raw cotton into yarn.

Rather, they knew and understood deep truths about being a woman that are rich and profound, and often as dark and complex as the intricate beings we are.

They knew, as women, our similarities are always far greater than any of our differences.

They knew we are influenced by previous lifetimes of struggle and strife, the effects of which run deep in our blood, as they continue to be passed from one generation to the next.

They knew how our hearts are all connected through the invisible web of our lives, the silken threads of which are formed out of our unparalleled capacity to love.

They knew women are prone to carrying our wounds, insecurities, and secret desires from the cradle to the grave. And because they knew this, they also knew we must nurture and listen to each other, providing the support and encouragement necessary to help each other voice these heavy burdens that we carry in our hearts.

They always knew the darkness of a woman’s womb is a powerfully creative force, and regardless of whether a woman procreates or not, simply by her presence in the world she will in her lifetime give birth to new light.

Above all else, they knew women are always stronger, both individually and collectively, when we commune with each other, allowing our collective wisdom to guide us in the spirit of love, compassion, and sisterhood.

They knew these truths in their secret circles, their covens, and their Red Tents. Their quilting bees and coffee klatches.

I posted this on Facebook the other day:

girlgangWhile the above post was more of the cheeky, lighthearted variety, the underlying message is really quite serious, and it does a great job of encapsulating a feeling that has been growing stronger inside of me for quite some time: there’s nothing I’d love more than to see women supporting other women, aggressively, wholeheartedly, and with so much passion, fervor, and gusto it’s as if their lives depend on it.

Because they kinda do. Well, at the least the future and fate of humanity does. And, yes, I do realize how extreme that sounds, but please bear with me.

womengather

The tidewater of the ‘me too’ and ‘time’s up’ movements have rippled out to where I stand; the temperature has changed and the water is no longer still. These movements have struck a chord in my soul. As a deeply feeling human being, I see so much pain and hurt perpetuated among women, and I cannot help but feel a storm of empathy and compassion brewing inside me for our shared plight.

How could I listen to Oprah Winfrey’s Cecil B. de Mille Award acceptance speech at the 2018 Golden Globes and not be moved by it? How could you not feel anything after watching Kesha’s bold and brave performance of her song ‘Praying’ along with a host of other top female music artists standing behind her at last night’s Golden Globes? I cannot, and I sincerely hope many others are feeling the same way.

It pains me to see how so many women seem to have forgotten our shared connection, as if the knowing of our need for each other was nothing more than a stain that has been scrubbed out of their consciousness in this life.

I am saddened by women viewing each other as competition and allowing themselves to be consumed by feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and anger. It’s absolutely atrocious how some women can be so catty and downright malicious toward other women for whatever petty reasons they deem justifiable and appropriate.

Instead of standing in support and solidarity beside our sisters—being there for each other in our darkest hours to remind one another, that no matter what happens to us in our lives, we are enough—we judge each other harshly and pull away to insulate ourselves from the discomfort of someone else’s suffering.

unscrew

strongwomen

It’s time for women to come together again, through both our happiness and our sorrows, to help celebrate each other’s successes, and to lift each other up out of the depths of despair. The world needs this, and we as women need this more than ever.

Though it seems at the moment some of us are deeply divided by our perceived individuality and fierce independence, let us remember the truth of where we came from. Let us remember and heed the wisdom of the women who have walked this path before us. Let us remember and return to the truth of our shared sisterhood, and take comfort knowing none of us need to walk this journey alone.

It costs us nothing, except for our time and a little compassion.

What we receive in return—the deep connection of belonging to a tribe of our beautiful sisters, and the unconditional love and support that result from it—are immeasurable gifts. These are the gifts that will bring healing and hope to the world in these seemingly grim times.

In September 2009 at the Vancouver Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama called himself a feminist and proclaimed western women will save the world.

I’ve never really thought of myself that way, but I suppose maybe I am a feminist, too? Because I believe with all of my heart that we as women can save the world, and we will do it by first coming together to help and save each other.

helenkellerquote

Full Circle

At the risk of sounding cliché, I have no idea what happened to the summer of 2017. It seems like it was just yesterday my kids had just finished school. It literally feels like yesterday was July 1, and my kids were both excited to participate in our local Canada Day parade. Then I blinked, and there must have been a disruption in the space-time continuum, because this morning we were dropping the kids off at school again for Grade 6 and Grade 4.

Time flies when you’re having fun? Maybe so. But my perception around the passage of time certainly seems to have accelerated along with my increasing age. At first glance, making sense out of where the heck the time went was tough for me to swallow.

But as I took some time to reflect on the summer of 2017, I can see how our precious time together wasn’t wasted.

As a family, we went to the lake, rode our bikes and ate ice cream, and walked in the river valley as we watched the goats munch on grass. We took a weekend trip down to Calgary and the Rocky Mountains. We basked in the glow of a crystalline mountain lake on a sunny summer day as we marveled at the beauty that surrounded us.

We went to the movies, and I ran outdoor yoga classes one night per week.

While my husband and son traveled to Philadelphia for a hockey tournament, my daughter and I spent some quality one-on-one time together, shopping for back to school clothes, baking, and making homemade popsicles from Kool-Aid and Jell-o, just like the ones my grandma used to make when I was a kid. My son and I went to see the Emoji movie the night my husband took my daughter to the Bruno Mars concert.

In the space between kids’ activities, play dates, swimming lessons, camps, and their certain chronic boredom, I continued the work of ‘working on myself’. And when I dig a little deeper into the events of this past summer, I can detect some definite themes around challenges, lessons, and growth—both for myself and the members of my family.

One evening per week in July, I spent time in a circle of women, digging deeper into the relationship I have with my body. Through journaling, meditation, and sisterhood, I unearthed a whole bunch of unexpected sticky spots I was previously unaware of. Through these realizations, I am working to heal with the intention of being able to stand, comfortably and confidently in my own skin.

I completed 40 consecutive days of meditation practice, with the intention of softening the walls I’ve built around my heart, and encouraging myself to be more open and receptive to the love that already exists in my world.

loveiswhy

I focused on deepening the awareness around the reasons for my own discomfort, and I’d like to think I have made strides in learning how to be present with these less than pleasant feelings.

discomfort

And to top everything off, we started a fairly major bathroom renovation in August that will likely leave our master ensuite unusable until sometime in October. If you want to talk about feeling discomfort, there’s probably no better way of making myself uncomfortable than to throw my family into a state of upheaval by eliminating a bathroom.

This work has been challenging and difficult in every possible way, but I know with every part of me it is also absolutely essential to my continued evolution and the metamorphosis I forecasted and committed to for myself in 2017.

Another notable highlight of the summer was celebrating my 18th wedding anniversary with my husband. We had a beautiful dinner at the Hardware Grill, and on a whim decided to go to a movie at the VIP theatre in southwest Edmonton afterward. For those who aren’t familiar, the VIP theatre is 18 plus (because they serve alcohol to you in your seat), and offers a deluxe movie-going experience with reclining leather seats that feature personal drink holders and adjustable side tray tables.

There are separate washrooms for the VIP theatre goers, and each bathroom stall features quotes etched into the glass door. The quote that caught my eye was from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, and the message emblazoned into the smoky glass read:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ironic? Just a little.

In as much time as it took my brain to register the meaning of the words, my world shifted a little. In that instant, I replayed the events of the night I had just shared with my husband: the amazing meal—the taste and lightness of my sea bass contrasted with the decadence of the truffle oil potato crepe, the smoothness of the wine, the conversation (the laughter and the tears), and the cute older couple dining across the restaurant whom we said we be us in another 35 or 40 years time.

In another moment, I relived our summer and the past 18 years of marriage and our life together—all the adventures and the highs and lows of raising our two children. The time before we were married. My teenage years, youth, and childhood flashed before me, flooding me with a lifetime of memories.

Maybe it’s not exactly what Ferris Beuller had in mind, but I agree that sometimes life can seem to move very fast. That’s why it’s so important to me to pause—to notice and appreciate—and to stand in the fullness of my life.

Summer 2017 may have, indeed, gone by quickly, but I have no doubt it served a very important  purpose. I look back over the past two months with a heart full of gratitude and appreciation for the challenges, the growth, and the memories, and for bringing me back around to what’s important in this life.

I can see so very clearly how, with every breath we take, it always comes back to love.

Full circle.

beuller

 

Lift the Sky

Life continues to show me how some events simply cannot be explained; they can only be felt. And because of who I am, the depth of my feelings, and how I process them, life can feel extremely negative and heavy at times. These are the times when my energy gets depleted, I feel drained, and then I usually wind up getting sick. This is exactly what happened to me this past Saturday morning. The one bright spot is that I’m learning to recognize the signs and triggers of this pattern, and I have gained the awareness around when I need to shift my energy toward the positive.

You may have seen a video of six-year-old, Tianna, which has been circulating on social media and gone viral, receiving over 9 million views on Facebook since last week. In the video, the young girl from Surrey, BC talks broadly and openly about the need for people to be kind to one another, while specifically focusing on her divorced parents. She has a great deal of wisdom to share, but the one message that really stood out for me was when she said: “My heart is something. Everyone else’s heart is something, too. I just want everything to be as good as possible.”

That’s right, Tianna, my heart is something. And like you, my heart is telling me the world could use a little extra positivity, love, and hope right now.

I wrote the following piece quite a while ago about an experience that had a deep and profound transformational effect on me. It shook me and woke me up and made me realize how absolutely anything is possible if you just believe.

In a moment of complete vulnerability, I am choosing to set these words free now. Releasing them is so  much more than a symbolic nod toward their meaning; it is an act of courage in letting go. And it is my intention to continue to practice letting go, as I have come to accept this as an ongoing process that must happen gradually and incrementally.

letgoMy heart is something, and this is my message of hope to the world. May all who read it find the courage they need to let go of anything that dulls their energy, keeps them stuck, suppresses their power, and holds them back from being their most authentic self.

May you all come to understand and truly believe that you, too, can lift the sky.

Peace.
xo

Her gentle vice soothed and enveloped me, providing the comfort of a warm blanket.

She said softly: “Feeling your feet planted firmly on the ground, remembering that every challenge in your life is there to serve you, and knowing you are bigger than any obstacle.”

Then in a moment so inexplicably strange and beautiful, she uttered five simple words that would change me forever.

You.
Can.
Lift.
The.
Sky.

What once would have seemed entirely impractical, and even unfathomable, became a metaphor for my altered consciousness—a bridge transcending the worlds between fantasy and reality.

The moment the words slipped across her lips, I realized I actually could do just that, or anything else for that matter, as long as I had the desire and the belief it was possible.

Suddenly and effortlessly, I just let go. I let go of the pain I was carrying in my heart. I let go of the heaviness of the expectations that I’ve placed on myself for so long. I let go of the desperate need to know what’s next and to have the right answers to all of life’s questions.

I let go of the weight of the world, and a single tear rolled down my cheek.

I finally understood what it has always been my destiny to know.

With my arms extended to the heavens, I can feel the heat of the sun blaze against my fingertips, the stars are mine to touch, and the moon is in within my grasp.

I can lift the sky.