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Love and Loss


"God help me" is what I say when loss slams into my life like a hammerhead shark. It pulls me down, down, down to the bottom of the sea and I'm drowning, trapped with a heart that's shattered into a million pieces. Grieving sucks. I wish it on no one and yet I accept that loss is truly a part of this beautiful life we are in. How we grieve, and how our soul grieves is one of the ways we are so unique. Some cry and cry and then move on. Some are silent and allow the pain to drift through them like a stranger in the night. Some tuck it away and will not ever "Go there" ever again. I've read so much about the grieving process in humans, elephants, horses, and even primates. We grieve because we love... It is that simple.

I am no stranger to loss. One of my earliest memories as a child was holding my father's coon hound in my arms as she died on the way to the vet. I was 8 years old. My mother was driving and screaming at me to help her breathe. She died of heart worm. There was nothing I could do.

Over and over in my childhood, we lost my friends and family members and it became "normal." By the time I was 17 years old, I had experienced 6 people's deaths. Three happened one right after another. Unfortunately, I also lost countless pets because of the environment in which I was brought up. A puppy that died of distemper because he wasn't given vaccinations. A baby lamb that was attacked by coyotes. A kitten, hit on the road.

All of these beings, I loved. I loved them fully and unconditionally. I loved my friend who got killed right out in front of our high school when her tire slipped off the edge and she over corrected, only to swerve into the other lane. I think about her often and how much I would have loved to chat with her about our kids and how they're doing. Sometimes I just talk to the clouds and know she is listening.

I didn't know how to grieve when I was a child... I didn't understand why we went to the cemetery all the time to visit my brother who died before I was born. To me, he was always there with us - when we climbed trees in the woods, or went hunting with my father. I just figured that stone in the ground was some sort of landing place for the living to visit. A place for people to think, reflect, and read the dates. My father brought up Felix's name very little in real life and yet somehow, he was very real to me in our daily lives. Maybe it was because my mom told us about him. Or maybe I only heard it once - that he had died when he was 7 years old from leukemia and it stuck with me. From that day forward, he was with me. I don't really ask why things are the way they are anymore.

All this death that surrounded me has taught me a lot of things about loss and life, and really about love. When we grieve, we are missing that love that is no longer able to be shared with that person. We want to love - it is innate because that is how we are made. We miss seeing them walk through the door or holding our hand. We miss them in ways that only we know.

And yet, I believe that they are always here with us. I here my dad's voice sometimes. He tells me to "Take it easy, Shmitty" and sometimes he says, "Now you're in business" - meaning I've done a good job. My heart has grown so large because of how much I LOVE... I love family, friends, and our animals. I can only accept that as much as I love there will always be that balance of grieving. It's not the death that is the hard part, it is the after math. I've said it so many times, "Death is only hard on the living." There isn't a choice in the matter really. If you love, you will grieve after death. If you grieve, you are love. I think it is the way God wants us to be. God is love.

Our faith in this life can only be measured by our ability to love... It is our gift. Whatever you love, and it is good for you, humanity, and the world, that is when you know your soul is thriving. That is when you know that grieving is only for now and will not be the same tomorrow. It is ok to soak in it and to let those emotions over flow. I find that my equine friends are the best at holding space for those who are grieving. They have listened to quite a bit of loss that visitors to our barn seem to want to share with them. Maybe it's because of their quiet nature or possibly their large presence. But maybe it's because of the size of their hearts. They love in ways that no humans could understand. With hearts as large as theirs, surely their love overflows.


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