Grieving is something we all do. Whether it is from the loss of our first Teddy Bear, our loving grandparent or parent, or our beloved pet, at some time in our lives, we will experience grief. Grief has been a problem for longer than we can imagine. Professional therapists now focus on grief counseling as a primary emotional disorder. The death of a beloved pet can cause enormous grief. For each and everyone of us who are pet caretakers, we accept the reality that we will likely outlive our pet and we will have to go through a grieving period. And, that it is going to hurt.
Why don’t we take a somewhat objective look at grieving. I hear time and time again that grieving is loving, so let’s take a look at that. When I did my radio show for HayHouse, I often had the topic of grieving arise. I remember once when a lady told me that her cat had died and after five years, she grieved so much that she refused to have another pet in her life. That sorta sounds a bit more like suffering than loving.
First, grief is an emotion. Emotions are sensations of the body and are the result of thoughts. Thoughts come from pre-conceived perceptions based on past experiences. Past experiences, now memory, come back to us colored in thoughts and emotions. The point that I am trying to make is that most of our experiences are relative to what we perceive. Emotions, like grief, are very relative.
Your neighbor down the street walks by why you are working in your yard. You say hello and start a conversation. During the conversation, she mentions that her pet recently died and talks to you about her grief. You feel some compassion and you extend your sympathies and you go back to your weeding. Later on, you get a phone call from your sister and she is crying because she had to put down her pet. You know her pet and have some memories based on your experiences. You start to feel a little sad and there may appear some grief each time you think about it. Some time later, you have to let your beloved pet go and boom, you are overwhelmed by grief. Each situation involved a pet dying and each situation created a grieving experience based on your personal connection to the pet. It starts to become obvious that the power of grief is relative to your attachment to the pet.
It is also obvious that emotions like grief cannot exist without thoughts. Even if emotions arise in the body without obvious predisposing thoughts, research suggests that they are due to our unconscious thoughts, which are about 90% of our overall thoughts. Thoughts are also relative. Everyone experiences things differently and those thoughts that form memories vary from person to person.
We create personal stories with everything that we are attached to. The more that we are attached to something, the more stories we create. The stories that we create might not even be conscious stories. They are likely stories based on past experiences regarding other attachments. These often begin early in our lives. If we want to understand the hurtful emotions we often have, we have to be willing to look at the stories (accumulated thoughts) that we have created about the object we are attached to.
Grieving over the death of a pet often is attached to a lot of personal stories, carried around by the subconscious mind for many years. If we have an older pet or sick pet that is approaching its transition, it is easy to witness the stories coming to the surface. The mind will pour past experiences into the present consciousness. Fears about loss, loneliness, lacking, companionship, security and love will come forward. These are painful emotions that we have managed to bury deep into our consciousness to avoid the pain. So, we push them back down and direct our attention elsewhere.
Eventually, death of the pet does occur, and we have to face the emotions coming forward in the form of grief. This is unavoidable, but what we do with grief is our choice. We can shove this emotion back down, deep into our subconscious and continue to suffer each time it reveals itself. Or, we can try to understand grief, transcend the emotion and when we do face grieving over a loss, it becomes bearable.
I have a close friend whose partner has gone through a gut-wrenching period of grief. Due to an unstable home life, she was very attached to her mother and her brother. They were the rocks in the stormy sea of her life. Her mother died after a prolonged illness and she grieved horribly. A couple of years passed and about the time she was able to think about her mother without painful grief coming forward, her brother died unexpectedly. This was too much to bear and she sunk deep into grieving to the point that she could hardly function. She turned to counselors, clergy and others to try to get a hold of the grief. Nothing worked.
Without her knowing, she was turning to the one thing that we all turn to for solutions; her reasoning mind. After two years of not being able to solve the problem of the loss of her mother and subsequent grieving, and now with a crushing loss and more grief, taken to her knees, she realized that she would not be able to get relief from her thinking mind.
Instead of turning outward for help, she turned inward to see if she could find some answers. Soon, new doors opened and she was able to allow the stories of her attachments come forward and witness these objectively. She learned to quieten her mind and insight revealed itself. The more she understood her grief, the less painful it was. I talked to my friend the other day and he told me that she was beginning to understand the deep connection between ourselves and our loved ones and that death of the body is not the death of the relationship. By accepting grief, understanding it and transcending it, she became aware of this Truth. Grief had been transformed from a burden to a blessing.