What to do when the holidays aren't happy...

Just a note to those who may be hurting instead of happy this holiday season...

...and I count myself among them.

Having lost a brother and a sister (in addition to my dad, and now my mom) -- I know too well how sadness can drain the holidays of their bright lights and cheer.

The intense pain and loneliness can make you feel like you want to stay in bed with the covers pulled up.

"Just wake me after New Years!"

I totally get it.

In fact, I'm something of an expert in grief (though I  wish it weren't the case...)

Sometimes grief is magnified by certain dates around the holidays as well.

For me, Dec 26 is particularly painful because it's when my Dad passed away...and my brother-in-law had a stroke, which eventually claimed his life.

It makes the holidays extra hard for me.

Many people reading this message are nodding  their heads, because they know exactly what I'm
talking about.

How in the world do you get through these times?

Everybody grieves differently, and some losses  are harder to bear than others.

Here are a few ideas that could help you (or someone you know who may be hurting) get through the holidays and look forward to brighter days ahead.

~ Don't isolate yourself. Staying in bed under the covers may sound appealing, but generally being with other people can give you a lift and at the least be a distraction. Don't wait for the invitations to come; seek out opportunities to visit friends and family.

But, be sure to give yourself an "out" if you're just not up to the entire visit.

That might mean driving yourself to the event so that if you feel like leaving, you can do so easily.

~ Be flexible on traditions. You don't have to do things the same way as before. Start a new tradition or just scale back this year. Or don't do anything!

Or, you may want to continue a cherished tradition in honor of your loved one and experience it for them. 

I do this in my mom's honor when I go to look at spectacular Christmas lights in certain neighborhoods. My mom loved doing that and would clip our newspaper articles listing the most decked-out homes, and we'd go be dazzled. Same for the annual Christmas boat Parades. She really loved seeing those boats parade in Dana Point Harbor, and when I watch now, I feel like she is there with me.

Is there a holiday tradition you could do in honor of your loved one?

~ Don't anticipate what your emotional response will be. This is the main lesson I have learned myself. I used to think, "Oh, I'm probably going to be really sad..." or "That won't be as fun as it used to be..." or "I'm sure I won't feel comfortable ...."  But the truth is, we don't know how we're going to feel or respond until each moment occurs.

Unless, however, you "will" yourself to feel a certain way. These days, I go with an open mind and calm heart (which I develop through prayer, meditation, reflection, breathing...) and then I can be surprised and delighted at what occurs.

~ Honor the memory of your loved one. You might like to light a candle, recite a favorite prayer or poem and acknowledge the life that impacted you. You could do something your loved one enjoyed, or make a donation in their name. Or, just reflect on a special favorite memory that brings healing to your heart.

My best tip of all?

Right when I don't feel like doing anything at all, I look for ways to be of service to others.

It's been my experience that nothing heals the hurting heart more than helping others less fortunate. 

Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Sign extra Christmas cards and take them to a nursing home. Donate food. Collect blankets for shelter animals or volunteer to walk a shelter dog*

Isn't it amazing how we are designed to be in community with others? And how the adage, "It is better to give than to receive" really is true? 

Because in the giving, we get so much in return.

That is what I'm going to focus on these next few weeks.

...and I'll let you know how it goes.

One more thing: do something nice for yourself as well.

Be kind and patient -- and yes, compassionate -- with YOU!

It's so so hard when "life-as-we-know-it" has been shattered.

That's when it's extra important to cut yourself some slack, focus on one breath at a time, and try to look ahead to what life has in store for you next.

My hope and prayer is that you'll be able to embrace the new life that lies ahead.

Please keep me in your prayers to do the same.

My next tip will show you how to create more cheerful curiosity in your outlook so you feel better no matter what is going on in your life right now.

Until then, I wish you and your loved ones much PEACE now...and always.
~ Peggy

P.S. I have also learned that joy and sorrow can exist in the same place, at the same time. I know that my loved ones would not want to see me suffering, and that alone encourages me to embrace the new life that lies ahead.

*You can help save lives of abandoned dogs and cats with your
purchase of a Living Swell Christmas Gift Set (almost sold out).
which supports my animal welfare work. So many compassionate
people pull together to save these precious lives of desperate animals
that otherwise would have no hope for survival...could not do it
without your generous caring.

How have you learned to live through the holidays and special events even in the face of loss? Let me know in the comments below...

 

 

Gifts of Grief

It's been two years exactly since my mom passed away.

The reason I'm sharing this with you today is because it's possible that in the past two years you, too, have suffered some sort of loss --

...and possibly (hopefully) you have benefited from the gifts of grief.

Gifts of Grief?

A strange title, I realize it may be.

But there are gifts to be found, if we look for them.

When my mom died (peacefully, yet unexpectedly) my world crumbled in a way that was shocking to me.

Having previously lost my Dad (who was married to my mom for 50 years), and a sister (before she reached the age of 20) and my only brother (at 33, he should have been riding his golden wave)...

I was something of an expert at love & loss.

I knew that in time, precious treasured memories would lift me, would rescue me, like a lifeboat for the soul.

I knew that my life would go on -- different, changed, but go on it would.

I also knew that my heart would expand to accommodate the new pain and sadness, yet joy and hope would also blossom over time, and actually exist at the same time, in the same place.

But for some reason, the loss of my mom felt like the final blow to an already fragile heart that finally shattered under the compilation of so much loss.

Probably because in my other losses, mom was there to comfort me...

But not this time.

I don't share this in hopes of getting pity or comfort (though words of kindness from so many have been a healing balm in my darkest days)

...but I share in hopes of helping you, if grief has darkened your door.

Maybe you've lost a job, a way of living -- even a place to live.

Maybe you had to say goodbye to a precious pet or a treasured friend...

Maybe just the passing of time has reminded you that indeed, time is passing, and we don't live forever.

My mom told me, on her very last day, to focus on the positive, to look for the beauty.

I've really taken that to heart.

In fact, I started to count my blessings, instead of my losses.

And -- to grow from grief, instead of being buried under it.

My Gifts of Grief include:

 - the ability to comfort others, knowing the pain and sorrow of loss

 - the desire to let go of physical "stuff", focus on relationships and experiences instead

 - the pure joy of the simplest things, like a hot cup of coffee, fresh sheets on the bed, breathing in the aroma of night-blooming flowers...

 - no more procrastination, but renewed focus to get things done

 - my strengthened faith (many "Heavenly Hugs" have come at just the right time)

 - the ability to focus on what's important to me, without approval or permission from others

When I asked a dear friend who was no stranger to loss (not only are her mom and dad gone, but her brother and her husband) how she found the courage to face each day, she said:

1. Help someone else who is hurting
2. Have someone to love and be loved by (human or animal)
3. Have something to look forward to

This year, I'm looking forward to a Hawaiian vacation, then leading my yoga teacher training, and then relaxing and healing at my Oct. Women's Wellness Retreat in Desert Hot Springs.

Have you experienced the Gifts of Grief? I'd love to know.

Until then, please know my hope and prayer is that you'll find brighter days ahead, no matter where you are on this glorious adventure called Life.

Saying Goodbye to Gypsy

There is never a good time to say goodbye to a beloved pet. 

Daddy's little princess Gypsy, on her morning art tour in healthier times

An obvious statement, I know...

But I just got word from our vet that our precious princess little Gypsy (Daddy's girl and the sweetest, most delicate of our whole furry family) has a deadly cancer of the mouth with a very short time left.

How to describe the grief and dread of this painful loss to come?

How to describe the deep soul love between a human and animal?

No amount of pain or sorrow could even match the pure love, devotion and joy shared at the deepest soul level that doesn't even require words.

Hubby told me that he believes the deep soul bond between a human and an animal is ordained by God.

After all, God made animals before He made Eve! Man's first relationship with animals was perfect, whole and complete.

And every time we cuddle our kitty-cats, romp with our dogs or simply share a soul-to-soul moment that requires no words or actions at all, we experience a deep, soul-stirring connection that even death cannot sever.

Some of you know the anguish of anticipating an impending death.

I wish I didn't but I do.

I also know that no matter how deep the grief, every tear is worth it.

Over the years I've had my life enriched beyond measure by my furry friends...Taffy, Sophie, Scruffy, Bo, Keona, Shebekia (my dearest, deepest bond ever) Jessie, Hooney, Peanut...and my current furry family including Jasper, Gypsy, Elsie, Itty-Bitty and Teddy.

Now, hubby and I must face the the sad, sad heartbreaking responsibility of easing the transition of our beloved Gypsy fromher Earthly-bound physical life into her next adventure.

Writing these words makes it seem so clean, so practical, so right and correct -- while my heart is lurching and heaving and breaking into a million pieces.

Not another loss, please no...I cry and wail and heave and sob -- especially not of our precious Princess Gypsy, Daddy's little girl, the sweetest and most fuss-free -- and up until the diagnosis the horrid deadly cancer -- the healthiest and sprightly of all our brood.

I hear you, yes I do -- "It's for the best" "She's had a great life" "She'll be out of pain" "She'll be at peace".

Yes I know, but I don't want to feel better right now.

I want to feel the full weight of my loss, my pain, my sadness, my grief.

It's the least I could do, feel, experience as a tribute to her sweet, precious life, from the moment we saw her at the cat rescue, with her tiny kitten brothers and sisters, so composed, so intelligent, so curious and adorable.

Daddy picked her up, and from that moment on it was a soul bond never to be broken. Gypsy put her paws around Daddy's neck and hugged him, heart to heart, so tiny, so precious, so ours.

And she has been a perfect, trouble-free, precious princess ever since.

How to explain the loss we'll feel -- especially Daddy, when little Gypsy is no longer curled up at his side all night long, his arm across her lithe, silky body, as she completely surrenders in trust and comfort, knowing she is safe, loved, treasured, protected and cherished.

No more art tours in the morning, when cradled in Daddy's arms, Gypsy inspects with ceaseless interest the various paintings that they looked at the morning before. The colors! The light! Being carried and cradled by Daddy!

Such simple bliss brought great joy to us all.

Some people who have never know the deep soul bond of a precious pet might brush it off as "it's just a cat."

But there is no such thing as "just a cat."

Having had dogs my entire life and swearing I could never survive the loss of another one, I agreed to get cats, so I wouldn't lose my heart so completely. After all, cats are independent, right? I won't get as attached to them, right?

I was so, so wrong.

There was no way I could protect my heart from further loss.

You see, my kitty-cats curled up right inside my heart and will take an unreplaceable piece of my heart when they go. 

But -- every single tear is worth it. Every. single. tear.

The reason I'm writing this to you today is because we have to make the heart-wrenching decision to ease our Gypsy's transition.

In other words, euthanasia.

Having had to put other pets "to sleep" in years past, and knowing it was the right and honorable thing to do, nonetheless in our grief and despair, anxiety can cloud our decision-making and unfortunately create more fear and pain and suffering for our precious pets.

So, in my research to prepare for this heart-breaking time, I came across some extremely valuable resources that I want to share with you in case you are or will be facing this very difficult decision of having to say good bye to your beloved pet.

Here is a  wonderful website, Home Pet Euthanasia, which answers questions such as...

 "It it time?" (You might be surprised as I was that it's not always what you think)

 "Should other pets be present?" (yes, we will give our other kitties and Teddy a chance to say goodbye)  and many many more helpful resources.

A few observations of mine, supported by veterinarians and counselors, include:

- It's better to euthanize earlier rather than later. In other words, don't wait until the animal is literally at death's door before easing her suffering. Let your pet enjoy a high quality of life and don't wait until "they tell you" it's time, which in most cases causes much more suffering that could be avoided.

There are many reasons why to compassionately euthanize earlier rather than later:

 - Animals are masters are hiding pain and often will not cry or show physical pain.

Often, they are in more pain that we an imagine. Most people who have had to put a precious pet to sleep in the past decide to euthanize earlier the next time, realizing they had prolonged their pet's suffering in an attempt to delay their own loss and grief.

-When animals are so sick that they become emaciated, it is much harder to administer the anesthesia (the drug which is used for euthanasia) and often the procedure is more painful for the animal because it is harder to locate the veins due to dehydration and/or aging.

 - The more pain an animal is in, the more fear and anxiety they are experiencing. And even if there is not a great deal of pain the terror of something not being quite right is extremely distressing and agonizing.

In fact, some experts believe the terror and anxiety our pets experience when they are close to dying
causes far greater suffering than physical pain.

I never realized that before, but I'm so glad I understand it now so I won't be the cause of undue suffering.

Please read this: Understanding Pet Pain 

 - If your pet has a terminal disease and the treatments are causing a great deal of stress. For example, my Shebekia had cancer and could not tolerate the radiation treatments, so I stopped after the first one. Taking her to the treatment center and the fear and nausea it caused her was not worth it in my opinion to continue since she was terminal and it only interfered with the little time she had left, which she much preferred to spend sitting on the patio in the sunshine.

- Often you hear of making sure the pet is experiencing a good "quality of life". Here is a way to help you understand exactly what that means and helpful ways to measure it: Quality of Life

- Home hospice pet care is an emerging option and your precious companion can still get comfort care if the time is not yet to say goodbye. Hydration, nutrition, pain medication etc can be administered.

- If at all possible, have home pet euthanasia so your precious companion can pass in the comfort and peace of his own surroundings. Ask your vet for recommendations, do a google search or ask trusted friends.

- Prepare for the event carefully so it will be as compassionate and caring as possible. You own distress and carryong on ay upset your pet even more as they sense the emotional crisis.

- Finally, it's normal to struggle with feeling such as "I don't want to play God" and "I just want my pet to die in her sleep".

Once we take on the responsibility for a pet, it is up to us to ensure their well-being from start to finish. In fact, it is not just our responsibility and duty but our HONOR to do so. Who else should be charged with this essential task of ensuring a peaceful and dignified end of life?

Please take a look here for answers to these issues: Am I playing God?

As to wishing for a "natural death" you might be surprised, as I was, what I learned here and how in most cases, euthanasia is the preferred option to what often is more more painful event filled with anguish and suffering. Natural Death vs Euthanasia

Finally, it is perfectly natural to grieve deeply the loss of your beloved companion. Fortunately these days there are many pet loss therapy groups available which help support healing as you mourn the loss of your precious loved one.

This is the day no pet owner wants to face. I'm so very sorry if this is the case for you as it is for me and hubby and our little sweet princess Gypsy. Please know that our hearts and prayers go with you and we share in your sorrow of losing your precious baby.

Please share your own story below in the comments.

with love and hugs,

Peggy

P.S> Our pets depend on us to ease their transition and prevent suffering. As hard as it is on us to let our precious pets go, it is much much harder on them to suffer.

Deciding on pet euthanasia can be one of the most heart-wrenching and soul-agony decisions we have to make. Please know that m yheart iw with you in your sorrow.

Compassionate, nationwide in-home pet euthanasia: Lap of Love 

 

Good-bye My Friend

If it should be that I grow weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad, I understand.
Don’t let your grief then stay your hand.
For this day, more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years.
What is to come can hold no fears.
You’d not want me to suffer so;
The time has come -- please let me go.

Take me where my need they’ll tend,
And please stay with me til the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see
The kindness that you did for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.

Please do not grieve--it must be you
Who had this painful thing to do.
We’ve been so close, we two, these years;
Don’t let your heart hold back its tears.

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