By Lori Hanson
It’s been just over two weeks since I had to say good-bye to my best friend and companion, Sasha. A process of her suddenly not acting herself or feeling well that lasted a short five weeks. Unexpected doesn’t even begin to capture how shocked I was, not to mention I was assured the night before by a vet that she “didn’t look like a dog that was dying, she just looked sick.”
As I headed off to get her ultrasound with a new book about wolves in hand, I was convinced the results like every other test would show nothing. Then in an instant I heard the diagnosis followed by “there is nothing we can do,” and had to say good-bye to relieve her pain, all in less than two hours.
I shed many tears and let the emotions flow. I got through the evening and the next day by looking through pictures, watching videos of her as a puppy (which I didn’t have for my other dogs) and basked in the memory of a dog I couldn’t believe was taken from me at only six years old.
The next day I took her food and medications to the vet to be shared with homeless dogs to help them feel better. I wandered around running errands, “doing things,” and completely in a fog of denial. I got on the phone with a client for a coaching session and found I had nothing to say, nothing to give. And that’s when I realized I just had to grieve. I couldn’t soldier through this one.
I spent the next day reading the new book I had started. It was a long book and I read it in one day, it created a great escape. Those first few days it was all I could do to get myself to eat. I had no appetite. I spent every morning in bed journaling and continuing my gratitude practice for an hour, two hours or three. whatever it took to get myself up and moving. My energy was gone, drive non-existent and I wasn’t quite sure how to engage with the world because I had never experienced this before.
I took my first walk without her, I carried her picture and her collar. Damn it was a lonely walk, but I had to get out there because walking is also something my body is used to doing every day. Within a week I figured getting in a workout would help, and it did. I had the support of family, and received so much encouragement from friends and clients. That was a wonderful and unexpected gift.
The second week I had the opportunity to go to a breakfast networking group. I’m not a morning person to begin with so it’s always something I have to pump myself up for. I got there, walked in the room and realized this was a big mistake. I wasn’t ready to see anyone and network and be happy yet. It was too soon. After the meeting, I returned to my retreat and nestled into the bubble where I could be in the moment of what I was feeling and not try to mask it.
I headed out for groceries, started to make some meals and my appetite came back. I drank more water. I made raw green smoothies which always give me energy—and they did. By week three I got back into my morning workouts which helped to increase my energy. Sometimes I would break down in tears in the middle of my workouts at times, but I just let the emotions flow.
Tonight I’ve got a speaking engagement. I’ve got to give to others who need motivation, inspiration and want to be entertained. Last night I didn’t know how I would do it, but this morning after another invigorating workout I know I’m ready to show up for this, because I realized during my workout, Sasha’s story has to be incorporated into my program tonight. Not to be self-indulgent, but because this whole experience has given me a personal demonstration of something I share regularly, “You always have a choice.”
I’ve been here before, said goody-bye to my dogs Alta and Yager and got through by numbing the pain with my crutch, vino. This is the first time since I was fourteen that I’ve handled something emotional without plowing through ice cream or heading out for pasta as I did in years gone by. It’s the first time I’ve gotten through something really challenging and intense being fully present without numbing out my feelings with wine. And as painful as the grief has been, it’s amazing to see the enlightenment and lessons I’m learning from what’s happened. And to see how strong I can be, simply by making the choice not to hide. Only took me a few decades to figure that out, but hell, I’m here now.
So when tragedy strikes, when you’re grieving, when you’ve received a blow from finding out your job was just eliminated, when something rocks your world…take care of yourself first. Tune in and be sensitive to what you need and take the time to grieve, to write, to process what’s happened until you can start to see the light that’s coming from behind the new door that has just opened.
Eat healthy whole foods, drink water, sleep more, get fresh air and exercise and do everything you can to boost your immune system (avoid sugar). Nurture, be compassionate and honest with yourself about what you’re feeling. Accept the help and kind words that friends and family are offering. This is one time in your life that it is really all about you.