By Mary Moscarello. To read more of Mary’s work, click here.
Photo credit: Mary Moscarello. Banner image by Shutterstock.
Today my husband disposed of Bongo’s water and food dish. I suppose I’m grateful he did it. I’m also glad I was upstairs working when he decided to make that move. But I will say, the open space on the kitchen floor looks weird to me and surprised me a bit.
Funny that he did so tho, because it so happens, today I planned to write about some thoughts – lets call them “my conflicted feelings” about making comparisons. We do tend to get into each other’s heads like that, so I’m not really surprised his action coincided with my (silent) goal to purge some thoughts and see them written down to help me process. Chalk it up to our connection as a couple, for which I am eternally grateful and lucky to have.
It is often said that, comparison is a thief of joy. But what is it a thief of when you are not joyful? It still steals, I assure you, but when there is no joy… what gets stolen?
Bongo’s bed is still in our bedroom. His “puppy keys”, first collar and snow booties lie on it where my daughter placed them the day he died. I think she took a picture of that makeshift memorial.
The huge container that holds what is left of the last bag of his dog food is still in our cabinet.
So are the unopened cans of dog food and two bags of treats I bought mere days before he died.
His collar and leash are also there.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to go for a walk in my neighborhood since June 20th. Something seems wrong about that. A walk with no dog on a leash? Inconceivable.
When I noticed I hadn’t put away these things or moved beyond obstacles built of grief – I thought, shouldn’t I though? Isn’t it time for me to do that? How long is too long to hold on to reminders that we used to have a dog? Did Huz flinch last night when in the course of another story, I mentioned the day he died? Was it because he thinks I should be more “over it” than I am? Are people tired of hearing me go on about it?
Mentally, I was comparing my journey through grief at the loss to – oh hell, I don’t know. If we know someone who has owned a pet, we all know someone who has lost a pet. The way he or she deals with that grief has no bearing on how we deal with our grief, and yet…
I’m finding myself comparing my experience to those of others who are also weathering a really rough patch – loved ones having serious relationship issues or dealing with illness. People in the black community who just want equality, who just want to matter, who want justice. Or even the families of people who have died of COVID-19… I mean, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, amid national unrest over systemic racism, while those in power focus on bullsh!t or turn a blind eye to massive suffering, and oh yeah, record unemployment, big pharma poised to profit, social networks failing to do the bare minimum to curb hate speech, during an election year. I get it. My dog’s death is a very small first world problem in the grand scheme.
Yet when I compared my grief to these other sources of grief – it stole something from me.
Definitely not joy – but what?
Damned if I know. What I do know is, the immense gratitude I have inside, borne from the loving way so many have consoled me and shown empathy for my loss has not been stolen. The happy memories of Bongo springing up with a smile or actual laughter are still mine. They always will be.
I still have a palpable sadness. It is sitting on my shoulder throughout the day. Of course the left shoulder, right? Tears can spring to my eyes accompanied by the familiar throat tightening and subtle thundering in the head at any moment… and I mean ANY moment. At those moments, I seem to question the very feelings behind those physical sensations of sadness.
My personal yoga practice has been non-existent. I think I have practiced for one hour (maybe) in the two weeks since June 20th. Forget meditation. Forget pranayama.
This – at least – is something I’m making a promise to myself to change.
Looking at all of this through the fifth Yama, Aparigraha – I do see where I need to let go of my attachments. How clearly I see where I need to focus on the “everything is temporary” mantra I so often repeat to myself, to my students, to anyone who is listening.
It is said that the Yamas and Niyamas are ancient solutions to modern problems. A common translation of the sanskrit word, Aparigraha, is non-hoarding. It can also be used to mean non-attachment, non-grasping, and non-aversion. It goes really well with a healthy serving of “Everything is Temporary”.
But getting back to my original question, what does comparison steal from grief?
So much of grief connected with death feels like a surrender. I’m helpless, so surrender, I must. There’s something sacred in that. The moment I recognize my own limitations to change reality – and feel my feelings – I am connected to myself, maybe even Source.
Comparing my surrender to any other thing does not serve me. Perhaps that’s what comparison steals from me. The fifth Niyama is Isvara Pranidana – surrendering to a higher source as a way to more attentively receive the gift of grace that it means to be alive.
Looking back on it now, I see moments during that agonizing last ten minutes of Bongo’s life that I did surrender to Source. Something in me recognized that when he collapsed, he might never get up again. Something in me told me to look at his gums. I instinctively knew to call Huz right away because I needed him by me. There were gifts in that ability for us as a couple to connect that I alluded to in the beginning of this post. We didn’t have to discuss it. We both somehow knew that Bongo’s life would end on our lawn, at home, with both of us petting him, telling him we loved him and that it was okay to go.
If I compare my experience of witnessing such a sacred moment when a sentient being leaves its body, whether human or not, to any other thing… I am robbed of that sanctity.
So comparison is the thief of joy. With regard to grief, comparison steals your surrender to grieve freely.