Blog 5-On grief and grieving

Yesterday began with a routine visit to the vet for my dear old moggy. He was 19 years old and was looking the worst for wear so I decided to get him checked out. He had lost a lot of weight and his coat was looking scruffy. In the daily thrust of lockdown normality, it was just another job on the to-do list of home-schooling, shopping, cooking, not going bat shit crazy. It was only when my daughter turned to me and questioned what may happen that I said, rather cruelly, that we actually didn’t know and we may not get him back. Boom, what had I done. Not only had I not thought about the repercussions of my words on her, but I also had only just then realized them myself.

And so it began. We left him with the vet for blood tests and she would phone with the diagnosis a few hours later. The tears and sadness came. The waiting caught mid-stream, nothing could move until we knew what we were faced with. I fed the kids lunch and got them settled until the vet rang.

We had a decision to make: put him on a drip for the night and see how he fared on a special diet, but he would really only have a few weeks, he had kidney failure, or put him down today. Our choice.!!!

Now when faced with these decisions, there is a logical and rational approach and a highly strung emotional approach and both were vying for my attention. I had an 11-year daughter, who had been howling most of the way back for the vet, and a 14-year-old son, who was being stoic and quiet. It was my job to guide them through this life teaching moment and hold the space to allow them to feel their emotions in a safe and healthy way. We phoned their Dad, he advised and comforted her. We knew what we had to do and very bravely and maturely she made the decision to go with the kinder option as she had enough foresight to see that weeks of watching and waiting for him to get worse would only be torture on everyone, him most of all.

It was at this point that I ‘phoned a friend’ literally and asked for help. The daughter of a farmer, she was all things practical and calm. She drove us to the carpark of the surgery where they brought out the beloved animal. The scene was one of heartbreak and hilarity and I can say this now as it’s over. My daughter was heartbroken, cradling our cat in her arms, whispering her love for him through tear-stung eyes, and telling him to go safely to cat heaven. Unnervingly, he looked rather well and was staring back at her with big saucer eyes. He never had the slitty cat eyes of a normal feline but huge big alien pools of black into which you could disappear. Right now, I was wishing I could.

My son stood outside the car and just broke down. I held him close and just allowed him to cry.

We were in a haze of heartbreak and tears.

Meanwhile sitting opposite was a family in a van. The son arrived back from the chipper around the corner, laden down with the evening’s dinner. He was bare-chested and caught my eye as he shoved a burger down his throat, hanging out the back window, trying to get a better look. The mam was in the front, literally lapping up every detail of the scene in front of her like she was live-streaming a free drama, ‘family pet put to rest’ or ‘Howling tears of a Friday afternoon’ or ‘the Merc, the moggy and the mad mammy’!! I didn’t mind, I would have done the same, maybe minus the smoked cod n chips. It’s lockdown, you have to get your thrills and entertainment where you can. I wonder though, do they just float through carparks, fishing for random acts of drama that turn up in front of them?  It’s cheaper than Netflix I guess.

Both halves of my brain were in a sparring competition. There was a voice in my head saying ‘It’s just a cat. I sat and held the hand of both parents as they passed. I had various friends die too, yes I am that old. A cat can’t mean the same as that. But here’s what I discovered, or remembered, grief is just grief. It has no shade or color or degree. It’s a room with no door and without realizing it you have entered and are immediately enveloped by its inky blackness. It both surrounds you and consumes you: your breathing becomes restricted from the grief-laden air. It’s a steam room of sadness where life is stoking up the burning coals to stick the searing poker of pain deep into your heart. I realized I was devastated too. I couldn’t deflect now. I found Juno this month 19 years ago on a film set I was working on in Ardmore studios in Bray. He has been through 7 house moves with me in that time, see me birth 2 babies, and been in the background of my life for all my messy dramas that are the ebb and flow of life. And now he was handed back to me wrapped in a blanket, looking like he was simply sleeping. But he was gone. And I had to acknowledge that for myself.

However, there were two kids who needed help navigating these choppy waters and thankfully I was with a lovely friend, thank you Chris Doyle, who could hold the space for the three of us. I have luckily been in a bubble with her and her family since the start of the first lockdown. It was back to hers, take out and time to breath. A sense of relief always follows a decision made and action taken. I did notice her table mats of cuddly adorable kittens and managed to fling them in the cupboard before they threw my daughter over the edge. We ate, we chatted, and when home we snuggled on the couch and watched a movie called ‘Home’, an animated hilarious film that healed.

Today is cat funeral day. I’m sure it will bring more tears but the weather around the kids seems calm.

Death is part of life, we all know this. I’m happy that my kids have known big love like this. That’s what grief is, just the back end of love cause if we didn’t love so hard, we wouldn’t hurt so much. They have felt these big emotions and in doing that have swum out of the shallow end of the pool of life. Hopefully, it will equip them with some skills, both mental and emotional, for other traumas that will surely come their way as they go on their own journeys.

And as for the Van family, I wonder what’s on the agenda for today, maybe hang out in the carpark of Lidl and while one of them does the weekly shopping, the rest can tune into a surprise birth, a fatal shooting, a marriage proposal??? But life’s drama will surely just keep rolling on regardless.

Crystals for grief:

Rainbow Moonstone: These stones can facilitate the alignment of the chakras while maintaining a clear sense of groundedness and centeredness. They are powerful healers of the emotional body. They are recommended for anyone who suffers from daily stress or who carries old emotional wounds or grief.

Apache Tear: this is one of my favorite stones. I was introduced to it during my training as a crystal healing therapist. It is a form of obsidian and its name derives from a story about an apache Indian tribe pursued by cavalry. It is said the warriors were forced over a precipice to their death and the dark tears of grief of the Apache women solidified into the ground as round stones.

They are softer energy than other obsidian stones and are used for grounding and protection from negative energies. They facilitate the release of old trauma but without the remembering of that trauma and are excellent in releasing the floodgates of grief, allowing cleansing and release of woundedness and hurt.

Yoga for grief

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