Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.
With the many forms of loss we can face; I felt it would be healing to write a blog about it and the grief I experienced for my beloved Yogi! He was my best friend who will always hold my heart in his paws and who left paw prints on my soul! We all have experienced some sort of loss in our life and grief is a natural response to loss. We all suffer emotionally when someone or something is taken away from us. Grief is a painful thing to experience no matter what manner it comes to us; a relationship breakup, loss of health, losing a job, loss of a friendship, death of a pet or loved one and many more.
Grieving is a personal and individual experience. How one grieves depends on many factors, including personality, coping style, life experience, faith and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; and it can’t be forced or hurried. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.
I have come to believe that as humans, we need others (not a news breaking theory); not because we can’t handle being physically alone. Although, for some of us, being physically alone is one of the hardest things we could ever endure. Many of us stay in unhealthy relationships because we can’t be physically alone but feel alone inside. I’m referring to our need to feel connected to others. Each of us feels connected to others in different ways. I’m not referring to the superficial connection such as: “We both like music so therefore we have a connection.” I’m referring to a deeper, more profound inner connection that really penetrates another’s soul, a soul connection! Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt like you’ve known that person before, even though you just met them? It’s our soul’s way of saying, “Even though I just met you in this life, I know you from another life and agreed to meet you again in this life; thank god, you finally arrived!” It’s reassuring to our soul that the person we agreed to meet finally showed up in our life!
What if one of our soul connections is not human? What if they are an animal spirit, a pet? For me, I believe that is undoubtedly true. I know not everyone is an animal lover by nature and surely would never feel “connected” to a pet in such a deep manner. Regardless, there are many people who do feel the bonds of “Pet ship” as I call it, “Pet + Friendship.”
I have always been an animal lover and always had deep bonds with many pets throughout my life but never experienced the kind of soul connection and bonding that I’m referring to until I met Yogi. Yogi was my Yellow Labrador Retriever; I referred to him as my “Loveador.” As I said above, grief is a very painful feeling and some of us never really get over our loss. If you have grieved over a loss and still feel the pain of it, there are ways to turn that hurt into healing. For me, I will never get over losing my Yogi! From time to time, I feel an intense deep sadness and void in my heart and really miss him as if he passed away yesterday and begin thinking about all the pain I felt the day he left my side. Other times, I feel his presence next to me guiding me and still reassuring me. He was always a matter of fact dog that communicated very clearly to me in life and not always with words (barks). I was always very “in tune” with his thoughts and he with mine.
Going back to 1997 when Yogi first came to me, via the Retriever News and Field Trial World of Labrador’s. I flew to Maine and drove almost 3 hours to the middle of nowhere (it seemed), where his breeder lived. I first laid eyes on him when he stumbled clumsily out of this tiny little enclosed hole on the side of a barn, filled with 8 gorgeous chubby little 7lb lab puppies dominating to get out of the whelping box first. The breeder separated the 3 males in the litter and brought them inside where I could play with them and get to know their personalities before making my final decision. In typical Yogi fashion, he knew he was on display and in competition to find his forever home as I watched and interacted with him and his litter mates. It’s like Yogi already knew “he had this,” that I would pick him over his litter mates! Instead of putting on his best show and strutting his stuff, Yogi curled up on the breeders lap and snored peacefully as I contemplated my decision. I couldn’t help but fall in love with his sweet little face and loving demeanor. From that moment on he had my heart! I felt an immediate deep soul connection to him. Even though his litter mates showed off more and seemed to have more drive and excitement, it didn’t matter to me. My heart and inner guidance led me straight to Yogi without consideration of the other puppies.
I guess the saying; “You don’t know what you have till it’s gone” is true! Through the years I learned so much from Yogi. I never even realized how powerfully special our connection really was until I was faced with the reality I wouldn’t have him anymore. I hate to admit this but I sort of took for granted how rewarding my relationship was with him and never thought about how my life would be without him until I lost him. There are no real words to describe how he truly made me feel, the comfort he gave me etc.! He has touched my life in so many more ways than another human ever really could. His unconditional love and friendship made me feel safe and accepted at all times! He read my thoughts and with only a “look,” we both connected on a deep level and just knew what the other was communicating and thinking. He was always the “glue” behind my emotional pain and suffering. It’s like he was able to take away my negative energy and transmute it for me so I would feel reassured. He calmed my nerves and reassured me every time life threw me lemons. I never felt alone with him by my side, even though he was only a dog (as some would be thinking); he gave me more companionship, love and feeling of acceptance than any person. He never complained, never judged me, never talked behind my back, never made me feel like it’s not okay to be me; he only asked to be my “Bud” and to love me unconditionally.
One of my most cherished and unforgettable memories of Yogi, during his younger days, when I used to drive him and my two other labs (Winnie & Dyna, now passed) to the country where we walked in open fields, ran, played and explored for miles. It was so freeing and carefree to lie down in the fields after we ran, feeling the warm sun beating down on us while the fresh open air brushed our face with a cool breeze. I will always remember Yogi and those days when I hear the song, Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy.
“You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in the fields of gold
Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold
You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in the fields of gold”
At the end of Yogi’s life, I didn’t know he was suffering, I just knew he wasn’t himself. I took him to several vets before finding an animal hospital that was able to diagnose he had terminal cancer. I found out on a Wednesday and threw him a party on Thursday and he passed away on Friday. I bought him all his favorite foods (which he couldn’t really eat but tried) and sang to him and looked in his sweet little eyes and held him all night. He was suffering so much and could barely go on. He was 90 lbs of love and always independent in his life but could not even walk down the stairs on his own due to his intense pain. Nevertheless, on his last walk, he refused to be carried and walked the stairs with pride, I could see the pain he endured but he refused to be carried. I was so proud of him! He knew it would be his last time! He was so strong! When we arrived at the vet’s office, he just looked at me and didn’t want to get out of the car. He was scared because he knew it was his time, but that’s not what bothered him. It was that he had to leave me and he knew how dependent I was on him. I knew I had to give him permission to let go. It breaks my heart to this day knowing that the amount of pain he was in, he wasn’t concerned for himself. He was more worried about leaving me. He wouldn’t let go until I gave him permission that it would be okay and that I would be alright! He instantly went from holding on as strong as he could to allowing his spirit to transition. It was divine to experience such a spiritual moment. Seeing his physical body transition in a split second after that presented many emotions, from pain (in the human form) that he was leaving me, but spiritually I felt peace inside. I experienced so much more that day than the emotions of losing my old friend and soul connection. I experienced the presence of angels! I hesitate writing about the experience, as it was personal and really gave me insight into his transition, not to mention my own personal peace and clarity. Never the less, there was a divine presence watching over both Yogi and I that day.
I have accepted Yogi is physically gone but I draw comfort that he will never leave me spiritually. If you are dealing with loss, here are some tips to help you deal with your grief:
1) Find comfort there is a divine reason behind the loss that occurred and it is for your benefit, no matter how bad we feel, the universe has it’s own way of divine timing.
2) Take comfort in knowing that if your loss is a person or pet, they will always be by your side spiritually, even though they may be physically gone. Even if they are still alive and you are grieving a break up etc., you will see them again on the other side!
3) Remember the good before the loss that gave you comfort, and what you learned from it and carry those positive lessons with you.
4) Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment.
5) Face your feelings; don’t run from them as they will resurface later. Unresolved grief can lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and health problems.
6) Express your feelings about the loss in your own way. I wrote a poem for Yogi’s memorial and that has comforted me and allowed me to heal. I bought a frame and hung in it: the poem, favorite pictures and his clay paw print. I shared the poem I wrote for him below.
August 29, 1997 – August 7, 2009
In Loving Memory – “Fields of Gold”
“You will live in my heart forever”
I remember the first day I met you my friend. I knew right away that we both would forever want to spend.
When our hearts met it was a divine connection, an instant bond. I looked in your sweet little eyes and I was immediately fond.
I’ll never forget your cleaver wittiness and affectionate mischief. I knew in my heart we would always be kinship.
I’ll never forget your soft bouncy run, sweet puppy smell and gentle loving eyes. I knew in my heart you would forever be mine.
When you became ill, it was all unknown. But I sensed right away that God will ease your suffering and guide you back home.
On your last day, I know you didn’t want to leave me. But be comforted in knowing your next journey is freeing.
Even though it’s hard, it’s okay to let me go. It’s only harder on me because I’m left here without you and I loved you so.
I just want you to know I feel I’ve known you in many lives. I was instantly touched by those big baby brown eyes.
Twelve years came and went so fast. But I am reassured they were the best years of my life that will last.
I am deeply saddened by your sudden passing. But I am comforted in knowing your memory will always be forever lasting.
I love you with all my heart Yogi Bear. Just know I will meet you again in the next life my sweet dear.
Fields of Gold was our time of joy! I can’t wait to do it again, old friend, old boy!