by Laura Crum
Once again--don't read this post if you want to read about horses and writing and cheerful things like that. This is yet another post about life and death and grief.
We mostly spend our lives trying to avoid being sad. If we are sad we feel something is wrong and we strive to make adjustments so that we can be happy again. We leave a relationship and seek a new partner, or leave a place for another place, or sell a horse and buy a different one, or take anti-depressants…etc. Sometimes these changes/choices do make us feel happier. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.
But I am seeing sadness a bit differently these days. Since my husband died I have been trying to come to terms with being sad. I don’t think I can run away from it. If I left my home and all that reminds me of my husband, I think I would be even sadder. I don’t have any interest in a new partner. I can hope that I will eventually feel calm, and as if I can deal with life on these terms, rather than desperate and afraid that I just can’t live this way, but I think I will always be sad. Maybe sad is not a bad thing?
I struggle with this a lot. Despite all that I still have (and I have many good things—a lovely son, sweet dogs, good horses, a beautiful property, friends who care about me), my life can seem very empty and meaningless. I know that many people would love to have my life—they might even take it with a little grief thrown in. I spend my days taking care of the critters and the garden and my son. There are many, many worse ways to live. Still, at times I am drowning in sorrow. Grief swallows up the beauty and all I can feel is the sadness of what I have lost. I have worse days and better days, but every day is sad. Sometimes sad but peaceful and I can smile a little, but sometimes despairing.
Facing mortality head on, as I am being forced to do, tends to bring up the response of sadness—however it happens. Whether your horse or dog has just died, or you drive by a clearly fatal traffic accident, or you read about some sweet, innocent stranger who died young from disease, or you see a dead kitten on the shoulder of the road…well, you feel sad. Sadness is the appropriate response, it seems to me, to the constant loss of life that is our world. If we stop to think about it, it simply is sad. Every single one of you who has lost a loved animal need only dwell on that loss a bit, and then reflect on the fact that you will also (if you haven’t already) inevitably lose loved people or they will lose you, to see that yes, sadness is inherent in life.
I’m not saying that joy isn’t present, too. But always entwined with sadness—two halves of a whole. Andy and I had a happy life together as a couple, and there was much joy. And now there is sadness in the loss of his human life. Both the joy and sadness are real. Just as the moments of joy you shared with your old dog are intertwined with your sadness at his death. It’s the nature of life. Maybe opening one’s heart to sadness, rather than seeing it as something wrong that needs to be fixed, is the answer?
Maybe if I can embrace sadness as completely as I embrace joy, can see it as something to be felt with an open heart, rather than fought, can accept it as part of the nature of life—maybe then I will feel whole again? Joy and sorrow intertwined is the nature of life itself, and my own little life is part of this tapestry. Love is what weaves it all together.
If I believe one thing about this life, it is that death is not the bottom line. If it were so, all religions, all spiritual beliefs, are meaningless. But if death is not the bottom line, and our spirits go on, then it seems clear to me that the only possible bottom line is love—however you want to view this. And if this is so, then I can be sad over the death of Andy’s human body and the loss of his physical companionship here in our home, but believe that his spirit and our love for each other are still present. Joy and sorrow intertwined.
So I am working on accepting my sadness and trusting that it can lead me somewhere. Somewhere I am meant to go. Somewhere that will bring me a gift that I am meant to have. I can trust that Andy is with me. It harms no one if this is all in my mind. Trusting in love is not a bad thing.
But one thing I can say for sure. It’s not an easy thing to do. This is a very hard, sad journey so far.