When I was a young girl aged nine I received a life changing gift. A beautiful wild Australian dog. A kelpie dingo cross that Mum got from the RSPCA. I still recall the moment I glimpsed her leaping from the back of Dad’s purple valiant. Her swift entrance into my life was unexpected. It was love at first sight. Her quick footedness, bright spirit, slim figure and gorgeous red coat put my Georgie girl in a class of her own. She became an excellent protector and companion.
In the throes of new love I also knew that one day my dog would die. I knew then, at nine, that I would not be able to hold onto these feelings of love that I felt. I knew at the beginning that an ending would come. This thought was too much for my child heart to bear. I quickly buried my realization like a bone in the backyard.
We had many years of adventures together. We were even photographed in the local paper with the headline “Everywhere that Angela goes,” with a picture of Georgie sitting on the back of my bicycle. Dogs had way more freedom in those days; none were chipped and few were ever seen on a leash. My Georgie girl howled at the moon, caught frisbees and swam in the sea. She followed me closely in the day and ran free and wild at night. She’d arrive home before dawn to rest and dream a little. I loved her free spirit and everything about her.
Slowly her back legs grew weak and sometimes she couldn’t walk. She died when I was 21, hit by a car and unable to run away fast enough with her legs so weak. When I heard the news I felt a bruise in my heart. I had distanced myself from Georgie well before her death. This pulling away was a self protective measure. I was uninitiated into the mysteries and blessings of death and had no tools for coping with the loss of my dog as a young woman. I didn’t contact my feelings in those days, in fact I avoided them like the plague.
Life brought me many opportunities to learn about the power and beauty of death, dying, change and letting go. However awful the loss may look and feel like on the surface, still, underneath I always found riches, much unexpected treasure. Uninvited deaths have brought me intense grief, but given me incredible gifts too. With loss I’ve gained empathy, insight, awareness and immense gratitude for all the ways love has danced through me … in and out of my life.
Life is not linear, it doesn’t move in a straight line like I was taught in school. Far from it. Life is circular and cyclic. I’ve had many new beginnings, achievements, experiences, adventures and then also many unwanted letting go’s, deaths and endings. Despite constant movement and change one truth remains. All our power is here now in this very precious moment.
Five years after my dog died a small baby bird fell from its nest during a windy rain storm. I’d been eagerly watching the parent birds feed the little ones for weeks from my loft where I had a good view of the daily activities of the nest. When I found the tiny featherless creature dead on the wet earth beneath the tree something inside me cracked opened. Firstly, I began to cry and soon I was sobbing. Waves of grief flowed through me. When my boyfriend came out from the cabin to see what my howls were about he was bewildered. He couldn’t make sense of the situation and assured me I was seriously over reacting. It was just a dead bird.
There’s a line in A Course in Miracles that says “you’re never upset for the reason you think.” All that parental bird work I had watched for weeks on end seemed pointless. This one dear small little bird life hadn’t made it. The sight of the lifeless creature on the ground had bypassed my thinking mind and reached further into something much more tender and deeper inside me.
Many years before a part of me had died too but I wasn’t in touch with that part. I’d been a dancer, performer and choreographer in my youth for very many years. When I was sent to boarding school at sixteen, I stopped dancing completely. For years I felt cut off at the root.
The well of grief inside me about this disconnection with a part of myself was invisible to me and immense. For years I worked hard to become someone I felt I should be (what others expected of me) rather than become myself.
I created a false self which covered over me. My real feelings underneath felt too big for me face. Throughout all this I discovered that the beauty of our spirit and inner truth cannot be destroyed by anything external. Bad choices, wrong turns, disconnections, failures, famines, breakdowns, heartbreak and even illness does not change who and what we are at our core.
Grief may seem to come ‘out of nowhere’. Yet grief doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from inside us. In my case it came from not being able to express my artistic spirit. Like stagnant water, grief too, can become lodged within our lungs, stifling our spirit and swamping our joy. After rainfall, rivers are washed clean. So it is too with us.
Grief can open the soul in a way nothing else can.
Grief can expand us and open our capacity to let love in.
Grief can open us up to new ideas and creativity.
Grief can be meaningful, nourishing and life affirming.
Grief can be a beautiful stream that may even lead to peace, completion and reverence for Life itself.
Grief can birth gratitude.
Grief can birth grace.
Like a good wine, grief may still be waiting for us down in the cellar. That’s okay, there’s no rush to get to it. You can’t force it. One day grief may just turn up unexpectedly out of nowhere. If and when this happens, you’re not losing it. Open the bottle with gentleness.
First, we take the lid off and let it breathe. We each grieve in a way that is meaningful to us. For some it will be with nature, the earth and the sea. For others with a loved one. For some with children. For some with spirit, god or the universe directly.
When it comes to flowing feelings with ease, we can learn much from our youngest people. Babies and kids are awesome at it. I’m getting much better at it. I’m noticing that I’m slowly becoming more tender with myself when tears and other big feelings come. And as for wild dogs and other creatures they go with it and they don’t hold anything back. They know the soul soothing freedom that comes with a good howl.