Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving In Spite of a Broken Heart
 
If you have been following my blog, either here or on mariashriver.com, you know of the sadness we are feeling since losing our two precious dogs to coyotes two weeks ago.  As I approach Thanksgiving, I find myself reluctant to celebrate this particular holiday while grieving is still so fresh. How, I wonder, can we go about the normal traditions, enjoy the familiar comforts of a holiday while everything seems so profoundly changed in our house?
 
What I know is that we cannot sit around waiting to ‘get over’ this. The human spirit cannot absorb such a crushing pain and then bounce back in a few weeks or months. We are not going to get over this. We will, however, get around it, I believe, by directing our attention, more and more, to the essence of thanksgiving. Gratitude for our long list of blessings and appreciation of even the smallest joys is the key to beginning to heal. Finding a new dog to love will, of course, be important down the road. We're beginning to think about that, which is a good sign.
 
But I have begun to see evidence of healing. Yesterday, on our way to attend a concert in Nogales, AZ, we drove a route that includes some of the rare fall color that we experience in the southeast part of the state. The play of clouds, sun and shadows on the landscape was beautiful. The tears that have been so close to the surface in the past weeks, rose briefly to my eyes, triggered by gratitude for the moment. Later, as the wonderful Merling Trio began to play Vivaldi’s Autumn from Four Seasons, the emotion caught me once again, and I recognized it as thankfulness for the part music has always played in my world feeling ‘right’.
 
For me, those two things have always been key to my mental and emotional wellbeing...the wonders of the natural world and the deep love of music. In the beginning of this trauma, I wanted, no, needed to immerse myself in the sadness. I found the saddest music I could and played it on my IPod for days. (Would you believe the soundtrack from “Schindler’s List”?) Strangely, going deep into the grief is actually helpful. Denial is not. False cheerfulness is not. Sitting on the patio where Gracie and Alfie used to play and bark at the neighborhood as I listen to emotional music has been cathartic. Many tears have been shed, but I’m finding my way through this, a few small steps at a time. Tom is having a different experience from mine. Because he has no concept of time, he has been reliving the pain as though it happened yesterday, and it is all still very raw for him.
 
Above all, the feelings of gratitude for your own personal joys, no matter how small, directs your broken heart in another direction so that you can begin to get around the pain. Don’t let anyone tell you how long your grief should take, or  what form.  Nothing is more personal than the ways in which you find your own strength to deal with your life’s deepest challenges. For me, just wanting to get through a difficult period without crying all the time has been my intermediate goal. Missing the warm furry bodies and puppy kisses is not going to end for a very long time.
 
So we will do our best to enjoy and be thankful for dear friends who have invited us to their mountain cabin for a casual but warmly loving Thanksgiving. It won’t be about the food, which will be delicious, but about the friends and family who are there when you need them. Gratitude...the ultimate healer.
 
May you and your dear ones find many blessings for which to be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day.