Dan Weil, CPCC
I notice that the place where we are standing affects what we choose to see and even the path we see ourselves stepping forward along. In positive times that which grounds me is more easily accessed. These grounding anchors may seem farther away and less easily held onto in the not-so-positive times.
Grief is a courageous example and one that I have become close to over the past two years. We’ve just experienced a super exhausting, more than two-year, slow burn toward the inevitable transition with our dear Olive. Her process shifted my focus, changed my perspective, deepened my learning, called forth tremendous amounts of servitude, patience, love, and… well, a whole lot more. We needed to make the ultimate choice for her and helped her onward just over a week ago.
I thought I had prepared myself over the past two years — maybe in some ways I had — and yet the ticket to ride the emotional rollercoaster is still not optional. Onboard this ride are some of my saboteurs. I can see a few fighting to get on this ride to pain! They work to deepen the negative emotions and call me ridiculous hurtful names like Betrayer. Liar. Murderer.
Twice the vet said it was time. Multiple times Olive gave me the heart-wrenching look that communicates so much and that I felt to my core via the thread that connected us. So rationally, I understand it was time and better to do it when she’s most comfortable than during some awful emergency we could see coming.
There’s not much I can say to explain how deeply connected Olive, and I were. The impact of her loss on me has been profound. My saboteurs were wreaking havoc with me. It all feels so utterly compounded by all of the insanity and horror going on in the outside world. What was going to get me through this?
Through the grief, I find that there is more available to me than I had been aware. I keep looking toward the Sage part of myself, the Leader within, and the compassionate hero that valiantly holds huge space for my grief and allows me to see the rest of the dimensions that are present. These dimensions allow me to explore the gifts and the opportunities here. The impact on me has been powerful personally and professionally.
I’m so grateful to my husband, who steadfastly, quietly, was with me as I lay on the couch for days and then when I said through my tears, “I feel like I’ve betrayed her somehow, in the worst possible way,” clearly, compassionately said, “Oh no. Not at all. You did not betray her.” He saw and heard me at this critical moment, and he is with me in this.
I was not sure what to expect from my family. It turns out that they all offered only appropriate support while leaving their dysfunctions aside.
My friend Scott said, “Absolutely,” with his gentle grizzly bear strength when I said, “I can move forward and still honor Olive without leaving her behind.” Days later, I still include her in our nightly routine, and I say, “Goodnight, Olive.”
My courageous professional colleagues and partners, Ron and Stefanie, gave me great space while remaining present with me and did not shy away from my experience with this grief. They prioritized and cleared space when it showed up so that I wasn’t processing this alone and so that we could move forward together. They did not leave Olive and me behind.
Four days after taking Olive in for her final car ride to the vet, I was sitting in the dentist’s office chair and totally submitted. I thought to myself, “I don’t care. Do whatever you want! I’m too tired. I deserve to feel some pain.” What I said to the dentist was, “Can we use some of that numbing gel?” What I did next was a slow, focused set of PQ reps. Shifting my focus and leveraging some of my own mental fitness “muscles.” I did care.
I am noticing that the path I am on is not all lonely. I have others with me, and all I need to do is ask for what I need. I have my own self-authority and collaborating people who allow me to show up in my whole experience — in joy and in grief. I can tap into these grounding forces when I give myself permission to name, experience, share, and show up as ALL of me. Not just the pretty parts. The impact is that I hold no resentments about this in my relationships, personally or professionally.
Olive and I have been connected since the moment we met when she was eight weeks old. Instant and ever-deepening connection. She was my “daemon” – always by my side right to her last moments when fighting to stand fully, me cuddling and holding her, she rested her head on my forearm.