When the Unexpected Happens

It has been almost two months since my last post, and today I am asking myself … How did that happen?

April arrived, and I went with it, full speed ahead as usual, prepping the garden, watching it come alive, and enjoying the rituals of the new season. I started working on a new program I wanted to launch, and everything was moving along nicely.

Then, something happened that stopped me in my tracks.

Beginning of April, our 17-year-old cat’s health took a turn for the worse. After a visit to the vet, we had to accept the inevitable, and on April 24, we said goodbye to our sweet girl.

The four of us spent the weekend with her, loving her. It was a long and painful goodbye. Sunday evening, she went downstairs and sat in front of the window, focused on her last sunset. I sat next to her quietly.

Late afternoon Monday, we held her as she took her last breath, her beautiful green eyes fixed on us. We sent her off with hugs and tears, her favorite toy and treats, flowers, and love notes from the girls.

We were left heartbroken. Misty had been with us for 15 years. She was an integral part of our family. I hadn’t realized how much of my daily routine had been tailored around her until she left us.

I have been through many ups and downs and changes since childhood. Change and I are intimate friends, but the kind of change loss brings about is not something I will ever be accustomed to or be okay with. Misty’s passing opened the gate to feeling the absence of those I have loved and lost in the past few years.

The loss leaves a permanent mark. We learn to live with the void, but we never stop feeling it.

Stepping back into winter

We’ve lost pets before, but we never had to decide whether to put one of them to sleep. The process was painful and triggered old and maybe unresolved grief for me. I found myself experiencing the darkness of winter in the middle of spring, a familiar stage that I have experienced before in my life, as well as in my work with clients. You can click here to read more about the Seasons of Change model, if you like.

How is that possible, you may ask. It happens when something unexpected and traumatic happens, and we plunge into a different emotional reality. We tend to ignore the need to slow down and reflect amid life’s hectic pace and ongoing activity. We often underestimate how an unexpected and traumatic event can trigger past grief and knock the wind out of our sails.

What can we do when this happens?

Press pause and recognize how you feel. Notice what your body is telling you … do you feel more tired, less energetic, and less social? Is your mind foggy? Do you have difficulty keeping up with your life’s pace? Do you feel the need to slow down and be with yourself? If you answered yes to most of these questions, it is time to slow down. Remind yourself that this state will not last forever.

Extend loving kindness towards yourself. Accept the way things are for the moment and be patient with yourself. Who says you shouldn’t be feeling this way? Work with what you have and allow for time to process.

Create time and space to recharge. It may not be easy, especially during times of heightened activity. Despite how you feel, life will keep going. Everyone and everything around you will want you to come out and play. Of course, you can’t put everything on hold, so you will try and push yourself to join in. People depend on you, and you probably have a lot to do. The problem is you can’t rush this. You are on your own time now.

Be creative! Carve time and space throughout your day to do what soothes you and helps you regain your strength.

What would that look like?

Do you enjoy being outside? Do you enjoy gardening? Do you like to meditate, reflect, journal, read, write, or listen to music?

Do you have a friend who you know will be there for you? Reach out! Most people have been where you are now, so they understand what you are going through.

May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Toward what is difficult,
Painful, and unknown.

John O’Donohue from
To Bless the Space Between Us

These last two months felt exactly like a retreat for me. I took care of what needed to be done and gave myself permission to slow down and be quiet. I went for long hikes along the river, worked in my garden, read, and meditated.

Initially, I felt a pang of guilt for withdrawing but it did not last long. What is the point of adding to the challenge anyway?

Through rain and fair weather, the garden came alive once again, and so did I. The perennials are queuing up, patiently awaiting their turn to shine. The bearded iris, the lilacs, and now the peonies are taking turns in blooming, their heady fragrance filling the spring air. I, on the other hand, am a slow bloomer. This post marks my coming out in the open again.

Which brings me to June and what this month means to me.

June arrived with an open invitation to join in. Something inside has begun to shift. I still feel Misty’s absence, but June has arrived, and this has always been the month of new beginnings for me.

It was in June, 39 years ago, that I traveled to the US as part of a student exchange program, my first time, and life changed in ways I could have never imagined.

On Memorial Day, 30 years ago, Neal and I left upstate New York to move to CT and continue to build our life together.

Our girls were born in June, and life changed again and took me on a journey of love, growth, and self-discovery that continues, to this day. The peonies always bloom around the girls’ birthday, a sign that my garden too spectacularly celebrates their birth.

The school year ends in June, signaling the beginning of summer in earnest.

Everything seems new and fresh in June. There are warm days and cool nights, the birds are nesting and celebrating the warm season with their song, and nature is showing us the way forward. June helps us ease into summer, and I love that.

What about you? What memories does this month bring up, and what do they mean to you?

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