My husband Hunter, our daughter Margot and I sat on the cold floor of our Vet’s office. Our collective crying was loud and uncontrollable as Margot held our beloved Greyhound’s paw as he took his last breath. Our sweet Goose was gone. The decision to let Goose go peacefully and to stay in the room were both Margot’s choices. Hunter and I were both deeply aware that this experience would break her heart. She’s only five-years-old. For a brief moment I thought to myself, “shouldn’t we protect our daughter from this pain? Tell her Goose went to a nice doggy retirement farm or something?” Hunter and I didn’t need to discuss it. We looked at each other and just nodded. We knew Margot would survive the loss of her best friend. What would break Margot into a million little pieces would be to lie to her and cut her out of Goose’s full story. Both his life and his death. Both his light and his darkness.
The moments leading up to Goose’s death and every moment thereafter, Margot felt and lead with her whole heart. I’m 38-years-old and still admittedly working on this. When Goose left us, I had just lost my job and I think we were somewhere around week two or three of quarantine. After his death, there were days I didn’t brush my teeth. I had little motivation to do much of anything really. I was hurting. Grief is such an intensely personal journey. There’s no “how to” guide to follow, no real roadmap ahead and no timeline for when it will hurt just a little bit less or feel just a little more normal. And even if you’re lucky enough to have the greatest support system in the world, grief is a solitary crawl.
Maybe it was a serendipitous moment or one of pure circumstance, but I intentionally decided the day Goose died to live and feel like Margot. I was all done with the walls and every single unrealistic expectation I put on myself as a Mom and as a women. I said no to being a “rock-star” employee and allowing my mental health to slip and to slide. I no longer wanted to be the “perfect daughter” or the “perfect wife.” No one had ever asked me to be those things. I had put those burdens on myself and I needed to unravel all of them. We were already knee deep in some sort of alternate universe living through this pandemic. Why not explore the vast galaxy of my inner soul too? I gave myself permission to fully grieve and to fully feel. I mourned the loss of my beloved dog. My heart broke on a daily basis as the death count continued to rise. I was bitter about job losses. I felt empathy for our medical community and every essential worker putting their own lives at risk. I felt anxious about our future. During this process, it was as if I was narrating my own version of the Disney Pixar movie, “Inside Out.” My version went like this:
Sadness: Remember that funny movie where the entire world shut down? Oh wait a minute… Ugh, I’m so, so sad. The victims, the families, our medical community, those on the front lines, the animals, all of us. This global pandemic has killed so many. Just. So. Sad. I just lost my job and now my dog.
Joy: Sadness, what are you doing? You have so much to be grateful for.
Anger: Shut up Joy! Just because I’m sad, doesn’t mean I’m not grateful. They are not mutually exclusive.
Sadness: I was so grateful for Goose and now he’s gone.
Fear: Run, distract yourself, go find something to organize. Keep yourself busy. Just go!
So there I stayed day after day. I was like an outsider looking in as started going inside out. The first few weeks were really strange. I had never sat with my feelings for that long before, but there I sat. I became tired and exhausted. My stomach was upset for weeks and my dreams were totally bizarre. And although I felt like (and probably looked like) a hot mess on the outside, I started to develop a deep inner love for myself on the inside. By identifying and labeling my emotions, life didn’t feel so crushingly overwhelming anymore. By not running from my emotions, I started to fully understand that no emotion was too scary, nor too final. I knew I could survive all of them. I finally started to recognize that all of my moments and all of my feelings make up my unique story. I now know that all of us can survive the duration of our story and see it through to the end. What will break us into a million little pieces however, is this pattern of lying about our feelings, cutting our emotions out and not fully experiencing both our light and our darkness.
As I end this post, our family is still sheltering in place here in Denver. We have no idea what the future holds and for today, that’s okay. The days are getting easier and our family is enjoying a slower paced life. We talk about our feelings more than ever and feel safe asking for space and alone time. We spend our days with our dogs and our chickens. We have a “beach” in our backyard and play outside into the Colorado nights. We Zoom and we FaceTime with our friends and family. We roast s’mores in our backyard. We were gifted a 1960’s sourdough starter and have learned to make homemade bread. We’ve got homemade pasta noodles down pat. We sing, we dance and we nap when we want. We are living from the inside out.