I spent the month of December in a fog of resentment and deep sadness. Even Christmas, with its silent night and yule logs did not abate my foul mood. I did my best to conduct myself appropriately while out in the world, but I truly was in the pits.
And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, I received a call on my post Advent vacation that my dog was ill. The lovely soul that called me offered to take her to vet, which led subsequently to a diagnosis of an aggressive cancerous tumor in the lungs of my sweet almost 11 year old German Shepherd. I returned home early to euthanize her, rather than wait the month; which was the life expectancy she had until the tumor killed her. And so, on December 31st, my last act of 2015 was to bid goodbye to my beloved pet. It was a terribly sad time.
Believe it or not, this became the turning point for me. I grieved the loss acutely, and I did not apologize for it, because this creature was a part of my life every day for nearly 11 years. She mattered to me. And yet, after the loss of her, compounded with the loss of my husband’s physical presence back in December, something just clicked. I fell into the rhythm of life on my own. Suddenly, I wasn’t angry or bitter. I was finding my way, establishing a new routine and feeling unapologetically peaceful while doing it.
There’s an old adage about loss- be it opportunity or people or love- that says that when the door closes, if we stare too long at it, we may miss the window that has opened in the meantime. As someone who knows a thing or two about obsessive focus on unhealthy emotions and subjects, I fully understand the message this quote inspires. But my recent experience has taught me that there are times when we stare and times when we open the window ourselves, because we need aired out and the simple act of opening sets us free. No one can open the window for us, or we will feel rushed in our grief. Nor should we bar the doors or nail closed the windows, for fear of losing the grief that orders our world.
I have found gratitude in my loss and in my rebuilding. Gratitude for people who asked after me and expressed sorrow for me, gratitude for the women who loved my dog gently and paid enough attention to notice her pain, and gratitude for feeling better far sooner than I anticipated. Nothing crosses our path without teaching us or awakening us to the grace apparent in the world. Call it God’s will, call it destiny or fate- your language means little. What matters is how you are shaped by its knowledge and will you carry out the lesson for the next soul who needs you. Cause in the end, we need one another.