Present to Grief
Where is your mind taking you at the moment? Are you looking ahead, making plans for the future, or are you dwelling in the past, remembering something that happened to you, wondering what you could have done differently?
Past or future?
Our minds constantly take us out of the present moment and transport us forward, into an imagined future, or backward, into the past. My natural tendency has been to seek refuge in the past; raking over things that I have said or done, wondering “what if?” The future has rarely been a natural playground for me. It seems to me that we fall into two camps, preferring one direction over the other. Both ways are a form of avoidance. Human kind cannot bear very much reality.
Then and now
I think about this as I reflect on grieving over my cat, who died six days ago. The process has been essentially different than when my last cat died, nine years ago. There are certain similarities as in both instances I was strongly attached to my cat, concerned for his welfare and supported by vets and gifted animal communicators, but the after-effect is very different.
Tornado of Grief
What is different this time is the way the grief tore through me, like a tornado, breaking open my heart and releasing pain. It did not feel as if I was sobbing, rather as if I was being sobbed. Tears ran, with no effort. As his heart stopped beating, I howled over his dead body while the vet discretely left me with him. The spontaneous welling-up of grief stayed with me for the next couple of days and I made space for it.
When I consider the aftermath of his death, the analogy with the tornado ends. It has not left a path of destruction. Instead, life has closed over his parting, and the sun is shining. My house feels different, but is not unhappy. The grieving process is perfectly complete.
That was not the story nine years ago. Then, I was left fragile and decidedly off-balance. I found myself crying unexpectedly for weeks afterwards and depressed by my cat’s death. I felt bereft.
The difference with Puss’ death, is that I was more truly present to every stage of his dying. I was able to be with him, and with myself, to a greater extent than before. I had sufficient capacity to allow the process of grief to work swiftly and effectively, and it has left me strengthened rather than lessened by the experience. I am released from raking over the past.
It is hard to quantify the benefits of meditation and self-awareness. What I see now, is that the practices I have been following these past seven years have changed the way I behave. In this particular case, I was more open to allowing the experience of grief to wash through me. “What resists, persists”: Such phrases are meaningless until we embody them, but by allowing the pain, to the extent I was able, I find myself clear of it.
Lesson in Life
Puss’s dying has been a lesson in life for me, in the miracle of mindfulness. I am reminded of the words of Thich Nhat Hanh; if we drink a cup of tea only thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands, we are sucked away into the future and incapable of actually living one minute of life.
I lived this minute of my life, and that has made all the difference.