If only – a personal heartbreaking journey
|My spouse Alice and I listened to Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart audiobook as we drove home from being away in Lake Tahoe for a week.|
And aside, I love listening to her books because it feels like a more intimate experience. She always adds extra stuff and talks to you like you’re in her kitchen over coffee. And repeats important phrases… (I will be doing a review of this book in the coming weeks.)
While listening to her book, it sparked some interesting conversations, one of which was around the phrase “If only.”
And another was one my Dad always said I needed to stop my “what ifing” myself…
It got me thinking about those phrases and why this felt like a go-to for my mind when stuff happens…
And now, how those phrases feel more destructive and not helpful to my psyche.
Do you ever do that?
Something happens like you lose a client, or maybe you get into a disagreement with a loved one, and you start questioning yourself with things like…
“What if I hadn’t said that?”
“If only I’d prepared more for the call.”
“If only I hadn’t brought up the price so soon.”
“What if I had been more compassionate and thoughtful…”
And on and on, the mind questions what happened, chastizing you for knowing more, doing more, telling you that you’ve made a wrong decision, and more.
My personal journey with these phrases came crashing down earlier this week. Before we came home from our time at Lake Tahoe, our pet sitter had shared that Lily, our 15-year-old golden border collie, was not eating as much.
I immediately went to the place of “oh, if only we hadn’t planned this trip for a week.” And “what if she dies before we get home?” And on and on my mind went…
It wasn’t until Alice stopped me and suggested we make a plan about what to do that we walked through these scenarios.
So instead of letting my mind drag my emotions down the road to crazy town, I was able to stop with her and walk through our end-of-life plan for our pup. It felt like a mindful healing exercise.
It stopped the “if only’s” and the “What if’s” because that’s in the past and done. I needed to look at today and what I could do now and move forward.
After we got home, Lily was in good spirits and seemed to be doing well until her hips started to really degrade in a matter of a few days. She fell and then couldn’t walk. It was rough. I was a wreck.
AND we had our plan, which we walked through together of what we would do if we needed to let Lily go.
Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Lily yesterday.
It was one of the hardest and most difficult decisions I ever had to make in my life. I agonized over it. Weighing her quality of life now – she could barely walk, had constant accidents in the house, and couldn’t do anything she loved to do. And she loved to hike and run and her daily walks with the neighbor’s dogs.
When I got home from the vet without Lily, I wasn’t expecting the heaviness of it all, the overwhelming loss, and the feeling like my heart was breaking as I was reminded of her presence everywhere I turned.
The loss of a pet and the grief I’m feeling stymies me. Maybe because each loss accumulates and becomes heavier?
Or is it because I rescued her as a puppy and raised her? I never had any children. And she was the only constant in my life after two major relationships ended.
She was my guard, my rock, my companion, always there with a lick, a hug, and her tail wagging. We went on so many hiking adventures. So much joy and laughter with her by my side.
Loss is so hard.
Yet, I know using the words “if only” and “what if” won’t ever help me. It will just dig a deeper hole that I may not be able to climb out of.
I reread this most inspiring and insightful book – Life, an interview with my mentor Rob Berkley and with his spouse, executive coach Debbie Phillips – It was about their journey dealing with the most difficult news of his health. And how they walked through it together.
Having a plan was at the top of their list.
As you walk through life and you get difficult news, how will you choose to handle it?
Some ideas to help inspire you:
1. Create a Support Team – I love my support team. They are ready when I need them. And they have been there for several losses and cried with me in person and over the phone. I’d highly recommend gathering a group of these sacred people in your life.
2. Have a plan – As I said earlier, creating a plan and how you will handle it, what you want to do, and how you want to feel helps ease your mind.
3. Be Present – This one comes from therapy. Be present and aware of your feelings. Revisit my email about Tara Brach’s R.A.I.N. that walks you through this process. Feel what you feel. And what I’m working on with my Buddhist therapist is “Holding my grief tenderly.”
4. Take It One Day At a Time – This is my go-to phrase whenever I encounter H.A.L.T.S. (When I am hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or sad). I learned this in my recovery from alcohol. It helps me focus and stay present – knowing that all I need to do is focus and get through today. Put one foot in front of the other today. Then slowly, I will get through the grief because the only way out is through it.
Thank you for being on this journey called life with me. If you’re dealing with any news that’s hit you recently, please know my hands are at your back, holding you tenderly.
You can get through it.
As my Executive Coach, Debbie Phillips, has said on many occasions – “A grief shared is a grief halved.”
And I find that incredibly true, and I’m grateful, especially now.
Big healing hugs to you. Some photos of Lily and some adventures are below. And there’s more here.
NOTE: Interested in more about Lily and many photos? You can find them here.
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