Posted in Mindfulness Matters, Personal Perspective

Grief Reflects Love

Last week my therapist said that as painful as grief is, it’s reflective of how much you loved someone.


My optimism about Tubs’ ability to recover from his illness didn’t keep him alive. He passed away at home, in my arms, while I was feeding him. It was traumatic. I was wracked with guilt. I felt like I’d killed him. I played all those terrible grief games we’re prone to. I examined the weeks before his death with ruthless scrutiny. My mind looped phrases that began with what if, if only, or I should have, wishing for a time machine to give me another chance to get it right.

Tubs’ littermate, Skinny, stuck to me like glue for the whole week that followed. Wherever I went was where he wanted to be. I was worried he might be depressed about losing his counterpart, but he was still eating, drinking, and using the litter box so I tried to relax. On Sunday, I moved into a new apartment. When the move was finished I picked up Skinny and ordered pizza for those that helped.

I noticed something strange on the ride over to our new home. Anytime Skinny had ever been in a car he screamed bloody murder for the whole trip, even when he was diabetic. This time, he was silent aside from a meow here or there. When we let him out in the new place he would pace around a few steps before laying down. He was meowing, but a strange meow I’d never heard before. It looked like it was hard for him to move around, although he still found a way to jump on my lap. Then he started licking his lips a lot and foaming at the mouth and there was no disputing that something was seriously wrong with him.

My sister and brother-in-law drove us to the emergency vet, hoping maybe he was just dehydrated from the heat. On the ride he lay completely limp in my lap, the full weight of his head in my hand. I wasn’t expecting good news. As much as I wanted to be proven wrong, I was right. The vet’s initial assessment was eerily similar to Tubs’. We were devastated. I didn’t have the money or the emotional capability to go through that process again, so we had to say goodbye.

As heartbroken as I was, a part of me was relieved that they were together. They’d spent their entire lives with one another and something didn’t feel right about their separation. I’m still struggling with intrusive thoughts trying to convince me that it’s all my fault. Luckily, they aren’t as overwhelming as they first were and it’s slowly becoming easier to ignore my inner bully. The hardest part is how lonely I am at home, but my friends have kept me busy and I take comfort in knowing that my cats were happy, healthy, and loved for the majority of their decade on this planet.

Even without my boys, I’m still a crazy cat lady. I’m sure it won’t be too long before I bring home a furry friend to help me navigate the next chapter of my life. After all, they’re great for your health, at least according to an article Greater Good Science Center posted for International Cat Day that goes over research on the health benefits of cat ownership.

 

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Posted in Life Lessons, Mindfulness Matters

How Do You Practice Gratitude?

When I think of practicing gratitude, my first thought is, “Well, I guess I’m grateful for what I have,” but that’s not what it means. Practicing isn’t generally being grateful, it’s about actively finding and building gratitude for things (people, places, animals, moments, etc.) in your life.

A good place to start learning about gratitude practice is this article from the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC aka a cool research center devoted to the scientific understanding of happiness and altruism). When you’re done with that, check out this article that goes over four different ways to practice gratitude. It isn’t a one size fits all kind of thing so if something isn’t working it’s worth it to try something else.

I’m currently practicing ‘counting my blessings.’ GGSC suggests spending 5-10 minutes writing out three things in detail on a daily basis. I might grow to that eventually, but instead these first few weeks I’ve been boiling it down to 2-3 minutes writing down a few words (ex: getting out of class early, pizza lunch at work, taking the long way home).

It’s funny, lately I find myself appreciating things more in the present. On my walk a few days ago, the same walk I do several times a week, I saw a yellow bird and spent a few moments watching it. I thought to myself how grateful I was for my stillness and for the return of nature and wildlife after an endless winter. I felt happy, calm, and hopeful.

If you’re not sold on the benefits of gratitude practices, check out more of the research:

  • Read this piece on TIME that goes over 7 incredible health benefits of gratitude.
  • Harvard is also hip to the gratitude jive.

Both of these were posted close to Thanksgiving. It’s interesting how we seem to reserve gratitude for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Father/Mother’s day, birthdays etc. I don’t see anything wrong with addressing specific gratitude on these days, but it’s so worthwhile to incorporate gratitude into your daily life.