I probably should have mentioned in my first couple of posts that I am new to WordPress blogging. The posts you will see for now are ones that were previously posted on my old blog through eblogger. That blog has now been disabled. I am reposting some of my blogs for the last year, so those of who who are new to my work, get a feel for the topics I like to address related to grief and loss. With that being said ,here is another of my posts. Wishing you all peace.
Animals have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have been both a dog and cat owner,and every time one of them died, the pain of grief was intense . It was equivalent to losing a member of my family. I have always valued my pets as loyal and faithful companions but never really gave much thought until recently about the valuable teachings that they reveal to us. I became aware of the teachings from the animal kingdom during approximately the last three years of my life. These teachings have helped me develop clarity during my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child. Today, I have four cats in my household, two who belonged to my deceased daughter Jeannine, and two whom I have recently inherited from my son and Jeannine’s oldest brother Dan. Each one of them have unique personalities and are ,in their own way, zen masters. I will proceed to tell you about each one of them and the teachings that I have discovered through our relationship . I have included pictures and a phrase next to their name that describes their greatest quality, and/or exemplifies their most significant teachings.
Bootsy was a Christmas gift to my daughter Jeannine from her best friend. He is 16 years old , and was a major comfort to me after Jeannine’s death. He slept with me and made sure he got me up every morning(He still does). Bootsy was also my shadow and a protector, following me everywhere I went in the house. A couple of years ago, Bootsy ,who is a long lanky cat anyway, began to lose weight. Our veterinarian had talked about putting him on steroids to promote weight gain, but my wife Cheri and I opted to supplement his dry cat for with canned food. I made sure that he was fed small portions of canned food at least 3-4 times per day. Bootsy took care of me, now it was my turn to take care of him . Shortly thereafter ,he began to gain some weight and thrive. Bootsy nurtured the care taking side of me and in the process helped me address the feelings of inadequacy that I had because of my perception that I was an inadequate caretaker for my daughter during her illness. Bootsy helped me realize that being Jeannine’s caretaker was not my role in our relationship. I discovered that it was more important for me as to allow her to make adult decisions not only during her illness but throughout her adult life, while providing emotional support and presence.
Jeannine and I found Angel huddled under a mobile home about 15 years ago. Angel couldn’t have been no more than six months old when we found her. Angel has this great quality of being able to sit in the quiet for hours on end,and many times purrs without any stimulation from the humans who share a house with her. She teaches me about the ongoing importance of being able to patiently sit in the quiet and experience the highs and lows of my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child. Angel also is also testimony to the fact that happiness truly comes from within.
When Bootsy and Angel die, my grief may also be intensified because of their connection to Jeannine. I will just need to remember the importance of sitting in the quiet as a way to develop clarity about my thoughts and feelings.
Zoey, who is seven years old ,was one of the two cats that we inherited from my son Dan. Zoey is a high energy cat who attends to every waking moment as if it is the greatest adventure of her life. There is no moment in the day that she does not want to be a part of, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to me or the other humans in my life. She also loves to cuddle and is one of the most affectionate cats I have ever been around. Zoey has reinforced for me the importance of experiencing as much joy in the present moment as we can, and that the basis of transformation due to life challenges is being able to give and receive love,without conditions attached.
Nitske ,who is also seven years old was acquired by my son at the same time as Zoey. Nitske got her name because as a kitten, she was found in a paper bag on the side of the road in a town in Upstate New York called Niskayuna. Nitske is by nature a nervous,skittish cat until she becomes comfortable with her surroundings and the people in it. I quickly discovered that she would become easily startled, even if I spoke in an normal tone of voice, or made a sudden move to pet her. I began to talk softly to her, telling her that she was safe with us and to explore her surroundings freely , without fear. She began to acclimate, became more relaxed and receptive to being petted.. Nitske reminds me that individuals who have experienced trauma from abuse and other catastrophic events need to be in an environment where they feel safe to disclose and just be who they are. Safety helps us become empowered; empowerment helps us shift our perspective during challenging times. Nitske also teaches me to continue to be aware of others limitations and to work with them constructively.
Every species of animal has their own unique characteristics and teachings that can help us change our perspective following the challenges presented by the death of a child and other life transitions. We just need to be open to the idea that clarity can be attained through the teachings of our four legged friends.
“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
― A.A. Milne- Winnie the Pooh
Some Suggested Resources
For those who wish to explore further the empowerment that occurs as a result of our connections with the animals in our lives, I would recommend the following books:
Animal Speaks, by Ted Andrews
Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams
Dancing Otters and Clever Coyotes by Gary Buffalo Horn Man and Sherry Firedancer