Barnie the dog, & a reflection on the future of grief.

I’m not so much of a pet person. I had a dog for a while during a short hippy phase of my life living in Bath. We’d never had a dog at home when I was growing up, so I didn’t know the first thing about his care, but we got on fine. As that’s 40 years ago, I don’t remember much else about my pet except taking him for walks.

My daughter Catherine had a dog named Barnie. She was living alone and had already had a few spells in hospital with mental health problems, and she wanted a dog, so we managed to find one for her. A family was giving him away. He was a yappy little dog, cute and friendly, but not exactly calm.

I think she had him for about 2-3 years. She loved him and he loved her. A pet can be a great companion. However, he was also a challenge to take care of, especially when she had further spells in hospital, and I believe that eventually a social worker helped arrange for him to be taken to a rescue centre or something like that.

It is doubtful that Barnie is still alive. He had a heart problem as I remember, and it’s already been more than 6 1/2 years since Catherine passed, probably 7 or more since Barnie was taken into care.

Rest in peace little Barnie. You are remembered with love because you shared some of your life with someone I care about.

Perhaps in a couple of years I’d like to get a dog again. It wouldn’t work out at the moment – we spend so much time travelling around the country both for recreation but now also for the retreats and events, and hopefully we will make a trip to Australia in 2019. After that, maybe the time will be right. Our location is perfect as we have a house with a garden, and a big park across the street, and by then my husband will be fully retired, I expect.

It’s so different to be looking ahead like this, when for so long I could barely see my way to the end of the day, never mind days, weeks, months and even years. And that’s one big reason for this post. Recently I’ve met various people who are struggling to see any future – or even want to have any future. They are in the midst of the earliest and darkest days of grief, and it is hard for them to see any way forward.

My advice is the same as I was given: when it is really rough, take a deep breath then take life a moment at a time. Eventually  you can come to a point when you will be able to see a future. If you’re not there yet, don’t push for it.

Sometimes it can be so difficult to accept where we are at the moment, especially if that is a particularly dark place. Nobody wants to feel bad. But it seems that it is only in accepting and facing our darker feelings that we can move forward to brighter times. I came across a very interesting research on these lines.

Pressure to feel upbeat can make you feel downbeat, while embracing your darker moods can actually make you feel better in the long run, according to new UC Berkeley research.

Read more here

Going back to grief and looking to the future: When we have lost someone who was a big part of our life, many things might have changed in major and minor ways, and there is a lot to take on board. At the beginning we might just manage to take care of what is necessary, the funeral and those practical matters. Then, there will be the sorting of things and perhaps finances. All of this could consume us for weeks or months, or even longer.

Eventually though, we come to a place where practical matters related to our loved one are taken care of, and then we are faced with managing our lives without them. It could be that a house move is desirable or needful. It could be decisions about work or house improvements or holidays. It could be about a pet. We might experience a range of emotions as we deal with the decisions that we are coming up against – we could be relieved that we are now free to decide as we wish, or we could feel anxious at facing decisions alone that were previously shared. We may feel hurt, confused, sad, angry and any other of the myriad of emotions that we are dealing with. The underlying fact is that we are now having to face all of this without our loved one, and perhaps that is not what we expected or wanted to happen .

It is undoubtedly a tough adjustment to make.

Breathe in, take it a moment at a time. Breathe in, take it a moment at a time. And then, when you’re ready, make a plan. Just a little plan, like what you’re going to do tomorrow. Make a goal, even a little goal. Bake a new recipe, visit a friend, take up a hobby. And slowly as you take those little steps, you’ll find yourself able to take bigger ones. Bigger plans. Bigger goals. Bigger projects.

And eventually you will see a future.

A sunrise prayer

O greater Maker of this Thy great sun,
Give me the strength this one day’s race to run,
Fill me with light, fill me with sun-like strength,
Fill me with joy to rob the day its length.
Light from within, light that will outward shine,
Strength to make strong some weaker heart than mine,
Joy to make glad each soul that feels its touch;
Great Father of the sun, I ask this much.

(James Weldon Johnson)

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