You may have noticed it’s been quiet here at Words Are Food. The silence was due to an inability to write. Not because of a writer’s block, but because of a life block. Our furry, four-legged son Hutch died two weeks ago today. We had to make the heart-breaking decision to put him down as he had been suffering from what the doctor presumes was pancreatic cancer. He wasn’t yet 6 years old.
We feel we have lost one of our children, instead of just a pet. Almost all of our time was spent at home when we weren’t working, so Hutch–along with his brother Starsky–were a large and joyful part of our lives. I’ve experienced some periods of grief in my life, but none like this. Our apartment is full of painful reminders. Hutch was a constant fixture in the kitchen when I cooked, so just stepping into the kitchen was unbearable. Forget trying to cook up the greens and other healthy foods Hutch loved to smell and inspect. I couldn’t remember the last time I had really laughed or felt joy.
Hutch suddenly became sick at the end of August, and in an instant, my days were filled with constant vet visits and perpetual knots in my stomach, which continued for months. In the last couple weeks of his life, Hutch required a feeding tube. Every few hours, we gave him food, water, and medicine through his tube. We didn’t sleep much as we were on constant guard for any sound that might be a sign of trouble or distress, as often turned out to be the case. With Hutch gone, I was left without the duties to which I had become accustomed, I had lost my purpose. I was an empty vessel, not one with unlimited possibilities with which to fill myself, but one that had been drained of life force and hope.
Grief is such an odd creature. It attacks you with force, causes you to cry and laugh and yell, retreats into the background, and then returns to pummel you in waves of varying ferocity. It was no help to say to myself, You’ve got to march on. By itself, the act of marching bravely on does not foster healing. I had to deal with the grief or else I was going to be repeatedly stuffing my grief down inside and slamming a lid on all of it, only to have it pop out like a jack-in-the-box at the most inopportune time. I allowed myself to succumb to my grief in the privacy of my home, but I vacuum-sealed my emotions while in the outside world in order to be a productive, tear-free citizen. I wore a pleasant face in front of others, who were surprised by my calm and seemingly well-adjusted self, but it wasn’t real. I was going through the motions of my daily life. I’m usually a very passionate, driven, emotion-filled, joyful, positive person. I was none of these things anymore. Zoning out in front of the T.V. drinking wine became my go-to attempt to take a respite from my grief. I knew that I should be supporting myself in other ways; nourishing food, soothing massages, unblocking acupuncture, re-centering yoga or energizing spin class…but I neither had the energy, desire, or money to do any of those things. Talking to my husband was a comfort, but he was grieving too. I needed outside help.
I reached out to my friend Donna, a licensed holistic counselor. I don’t know what I expected her to do, but I knew she would be able to give me some sort of advice or nugget of information that would help me. She immediately asked me to help her plan and assist in her six-week Healthy Living class, and in return, I could join in on the classes for free. I wasn’t planning on such a commitment, but I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. Although I’m familiar with much of the information she teaches, the class would be a powerful reminder, I would be meeting other women with an interest in holistic wellness, and I’d pick up a new trick or two. Plus, just being around Donna energizes and inspires me.
Life is birth and death, beginnings and endings. We will all experience grief in our lives; they will occur in varying frequency, depth, and duration, but it is a fact of life for us all. The trick is finding a way to heal ourselves so that we may continue to live rich, joyful lives. That is what I am trying to do now. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but in my experience, it seems to lessen the sting. However, I don’t want to waste weeks, months, or years twiddling my thumbs while time does its thing. We are constantly reminded that life is finite and unpredictable. For whatever time I have left, I want to be smack dab in the middle of Life, living it at top capacity. I want to do all that I can to heal properly, but I can’t let life pass me by anymore as it happens. After Donna’s classes are over, I will share with you my journey and what is working for me, so that perhaps it will help you or someone you love deal with grief someday.