Still in grief, feeling lost, drifting
Grief takes its own time. It will not be rushed, or planned, or forced into any shape or form. It will simply be.
I have been in grief recently over the loss of a being that I have known for 10 years. A beloved elephant at our local zoo, Lisa, that was euthanized over a week ago. She had several ailments that come with aging, and the decision was made that her quality of life was not what it should or could be. And that we could not do anything more to help her, that all the treatments and medications and procedures were no longer helping.
I struggle with the whole idea of euthanasia. Of course I don’t want beings to suffer, and yet it is also so difficult to know when and how that final decision is come to. How do we know? Those beings that don’t speak human language cannot tell us in words that they are ready to let go.
I feel this loss deeply as I remember feeling all the losses that I have had. Each new loss brings up memories of all of the others. Each loss adds to the ache and emptiness inside, carving an even bigger hole in my heart.
It is a deep ache inside my heart, my gut, my throat, behind my eyes. It is an ache that will not be comforted. It is a sorrow that must be gone through, not around. It is something that we all must face in our lives, more and more so as we get older. And eventually facing the loss of our own lives, our own selves as we know them.
And so here I am grieving an elephant, drifting in grief.
That can be hard to explain to others. But not to those who relate to animals and their non verbal, yet deep, way of connecting with us. Those who feel the spirit and companionship of our non human friends and fellow travelers on this earth.
I now watch her elephant friend, Donna, who is left, and how lost she seems at times, how she is not herself. I cannot comfort her with words. I wonder, actually, if words ever really offer any comfort to any of us during times of deep loss. She, Donna, will do what are some of her normal activities, and then walk to the gate and wait to be taken back to the barn area where there are no guests. Where perhaps she can grieve in her own private way. And maybe hang out a bit with Osh, our male. Maybe they can bond a bit more around this loss.
I feel pain for my loss, pain for the zookeepers’ loss. Those young people who worked with Lisa every day, took care of her, got to spend 8 hours or more every day with her. Who got to watch her struggle with her ailments yet see her still have spirit and spunk. Who got to give her lots of extra special treats the week before the euthansia was scheduled, knowing that this dreaded day was coming. Feeling the pre-loss. Watching her, loving her. Grieving when she would no longer be there. And now doing their best to take care of as well as to try and comfort Donna.
Grief comes in waves for me, like the ocean. I never know when the next one will come. But I know that it will. And I let others around me know that I may break into tears randomly. It’s ok. It’s a testament to the depth of the love and loss felt. The size of this hole inside my heart. Tears are necessary for me. And I let them come as they will. I find myself telling others not to fear my tears or try and fix my sadness, that it’s ok. Some things cannot, and should not, be fixed. They are part of being human. They are actually a gift. Gifts are not always about pleasure.
I have been feeling lost. Adrift as all these feelings wash over me. Questions stir inside me about life, death, aging…especially as I now soon approach my own 70th birthday. As I see my own functioning change, see my own declines. I am grateful to be relatively healthy, but also see the changes that happen over the years. Knowing, that if I am lucky enough to be able to live a while longer, that more changes will be coming. Age related changes. Until they stop coming because it will be my time to go.
I love to write. I love to paint. It’s been a challenge to do either of these lately. So here I am writing to simply give the feelings some form, some outlet. Writing not as organized as I might like, not as eloquently as I might like. But write I must.
I have also slowly begun a painting of Lisa, to somehow allow myself to paint some of my grief onto the canvas. My tears will be part of this painting. My sadness will be reflected in Lisa’s eyes. Grief will form its own colors on the palette and portrait. It hurts to paint her portrait. I think it might hurt more not to.
This aging process is quite the journey. The longer we live, the more losses we get to feel and see around us. Friends and family leave us. Animals that we love leave us. Winters come and leaves die and fall from the trees.
One challenge is how to keep living as fully as we can. How do we contain this reality of mortality within us and keep going? How do we find a place to hold our grief and also keep other space open for more life and love?
For me, I think that it’s important to give full expression to my grief. To allow the feelings of drifting and feeling lost to be inside me and simply be with them. And to also know that time will lessen the intensity after a while. And to know that, if I am blessed enough to keep living for a while, that I am still here to keep appreciating each precious moment that I may still have left. Each breath is a gift. Each day is a gift. Each experience is a gift. My life is a gift. One that will end. And that makes it even more precious.
3 thoughts on “Writing From the Lost Place”
Grief can be like a person. Sometime the person will go away for a while, but might visit you unexpectedly. Other times Grief will live with a person for a long time, settling into a life together. Sometimes Grief leaves. As a person it would be a liberty to go. We should not be made to feel guilty when that happens, when we laugh out loud and enjoy our lives while Grief is away.
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A beautiful text that I resonate with. Thank you.
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Thank you so much, Florin.