I re-read a message today that made my heart hurt.
“I’m not sure if you do anything for grief,” it begins. Beyond that, we know what follows.
Another, in my inbox for weeks now, deserving of an answer. The loss of a horse. The confusion of how to love another.
“I’ll get back to you”, I’ve said, which is the truth. “Let me get my thoughts together.”
In reality, there is no answer for grief, for heartache or for heartbreak. It’s not a problem to be cured, a challenge to be fixed. We know it to be the contract we all signed with our aliveness.
And yet, that doesn’t help.
What does, I have found, are gentle reminders of how un-alone we are in what we are going through. Reminders that what you are and what you’re feeling is ok, even if the situation isn’t.
On January 5th of this year, I lost a horse who was very precious to me. I have lost people too, at different times. And it is exactly those experiences which tell me that I cannot tell you how to be, what to do or what you need.
I can’t answer the question for you of how to keep going, or what to do and when. But I can share with you the things I tell myself, in the hope that it helps you find your way to a loving hug or gentler thought.
I’ll leave that with you now.
9 ways to keep going when your heart is hurt, or bruised, or broken.
- Let your son make the cookies. Let him measure and pour the milk himself, even though it will go everywhere. Hold the chair for him, with its back against the bench, so he’s tall enough to reach. Push the ball of your foot up against the leg so it doesn’t slip away. When he takes his finger into the mix and scoops it into his mouth, let him. Let him eat all of the sweetness and don’t make mention of teeth or tummies or dinner’s soon. Hug him and smell the scent of last night’s woodfire from the fire pit they built and the night before that’s shampoo. When the cookies are ready, tell him they are the best cookies you’ve ever eaten. Mean it.
- Collect the buckets. Arrange them in a row. They are all black rubber, look the same. Some are more flexible, easier to walk with. Find those ones and pull them to the front. Those will go to the paddocks the longest carry away. Take out your pink plastic scoop and make it half full. Pour the beet into the bucket. Repeat this for each one. Notice how they look like grey corn flakes. Take the hose, turn it on, and cover them with water. Think about your creations, now still lakes with river shale. Let them soak to become mountains.
3. Comb manes with your fingers. Undo the strands gently. Start at the bottom and gently feel your way up, taking apart any hairs that have found their way to knots. Take your palms, run them over the contours of their body. Notice the muscles and the bones. The breath. Notice yours. If you want to tell them of your heartache, you should do so. If you don’t, it’s ok. They know anyway.
4. Ring your friend. Promise yourself you will not cry, will not make it about you. Cry anyway. Make it all about you. Tell them how you promised yourself you wouldn’t cry, that you wouldn’t make it all about you. Let your friend laugh gently. Be a pool of tears and snot and shudder. Remind yourself, it’s ok, its ok, it’s ok, even though it doesn’t feel ok. It’s ok.
5. Remember Ada Limon’s poem, Instructions On Not Giving Up:
“… it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.”
Remember it every time you forget.
- If you want to ride, ride. If you don’t want to ride, don’t ride. In truth, everything you do is in service of your horses. Do not worry about the Not Riding. It will come.
- Keep the nectar feeders full. Even if it feels like lots of effort. Remember the Tuis, your beloved birds. Keep the nectar feeders full and watch the Tuis. Let yourself love to watch them.
- Take your dog’s head in your hands. Her greying whiskers and soft, curly ears. Let your hands run over her, checking her for burrs. If you find them, pull them out. Let them sit in a little furry burr pile until they make an abstract work of art. Tell her how you remember collecting her when you were pregnant. All about the ride home with her in the cardboard box. How even though everyone said you were crazy to get a puppy at that time, but that it actually worked; you both needed to pee all night anyway. Think how you wished dogs lived forever. Tell her she’s the most beautiful dog in the world (but not to tell her sister that you said that).
- Find ways of allowing for the feeling. Write it down, even if you feel crazy. You are not crazy. Read or don’t. Listen to music or don’t. Be a pile of mush or run ten miles. Do both, one after the other. Let yourself find a way through it. There are no rules.
As ever onwards,