A Conversation Between Connect Friends about Grief & Loss
By Jamie Greenebaum & Jolene McDowell
Linda Parelli suffered a tremendous loss recently with the death of Westy. In the messages of comfort and show of support, a lot of people talked about their losses of beloved companions, both two and four-legged. As Jamie and I read these, we realized that Parelli has indeed become a community and a loss for one is a loss for all.
Jo: It’s never easy letting go. We develop such an attachment with the beings we love. It’s hard to lose them. Unfortunately, we all know the experience of grief: shock, disbelief, crying, exhaustion, confusion, feeling lost, depression, preoccupation, guilt, anger, bitterness and oh, the missing, missing, missing as we struggle with new life patterns.
Jamie: Jo, your words go right to where it hurts the most - the missing. It’s a tough subject as it brings alive all the loss I’ve experienced and the emptiness that is left behind from all the lives that have touched mine and are now gone.
Jo: Yes, the emptiness can take over. It’s so hard to watch others go on with life as if nothing monumental has occurred, when our world is reeling. The depth and intensity can be overwhelming, as if an tsunami has wiped out the world as we knew it in one swipe.
Jamie: To the world at large, we are expected to continue as if nothing has happened. Oh, you can grieve, but not for too long. You need to move on. Get on with your life. Others express their sympathy and love, but they have their lives and we are left alone with our personal devastation.
Jo: It’s hard to open that hand quickly and let go graciously, with no brace. It’s hard to not hold on to what we love, resisting . . .resisting. . .resisting the devastation. The level of grief will vary, depending on the gravity of the loss and the individual. It is so personal. We all meet it according to our individual personalities and life experiences. Yet meet it we must, for grief comes to us all. It is the price of living and loving.
Jamie: Yes, in a bittersweet way, grieving can open us up to more love. But it sure is a hard way to get there. I think being able to let go is the true gift. A few short years ago, I had to make the decision of when to let my mare go to those green, green pastures. Like you Jo, I came late to having horses in my life. “Jeepers” was my first, and she taught me so much. She brought me to Parelli. We were together for 12 years. As her health declined, she waited patiently for me to be ready to let go. That was her final gift to me.
Jo: Just like you, and so many other Parelli members, I have had a lot of losses in my life. I like to say that grief and I are old friends. And it’s not so bad. It’s good to realize you can handle life and what it gives out. It’s good to develop resilency. It’s good to realize that, indeed, as one door closes, another door opens.
Jamie: I’ve never looked at it that way: “Old friends”. Yes, I suppose we are. But I’m not sure it is a friend I look forward to encountering again and again.
Jo: It took my son Nathan 12 years to talk me into a dog. And then this adorable Petite Shelty came into our lives. We called her “Shelley”. I never knew a dog could be like her. When my three sons and their friends would play basketball in the driveway, she would run circles around them until she left bloody paw prints on the cement. She wouldn’t stop running until they stopped playing. Not a week goes by that I don’t think of her, and it’s been 18 years.
Jamie: Don’t you find that out of the corner of your eye you sometimes catch a glimpse of one who is gone? If you run after the image it vanishes. But it was there for that split second. I do believe they are with us, always in our hearts, ready to remind us of those special moments.
Jo: When I was young I thought the one thing in life I would not be able to handle was the loss of a child. Well, I guess I am stronger than I thought. While I may not see the child I loved so much out of the corner of my eye, he certainly is always in my heart. I love to visualize my precious grandparents, my son, my dog, and by then, a few horses that I love greeting me as I enter the doors of heaven. That image alone keeps my feet on the straight and narrow!
Jamie: I believe our loved ones are patiently waiting for us in heaven. However, they don’t want us to hurry!
Jo: Agreed! In talking to others on Connect about this blog, many people mentioned their losses as well. Karen Daniels said she’d lost 2 brothers in terrible accidents and her father from cancer. Jennifer Snitko said “I think this is a very timely and important blog considering Westy’s death and the other human deaths in our Parelli family, not to mention all of our community who loose horses every year. Of course, it struck me particularly, as I lost a very special mare (my first horse as an adult!) this September“. I asked my Connect friends what helped them overcome their sorrow, and almost unanimously they said “Time, remembering and love” After the sorrow passes, there is joy in remembering what we loved so much. Everything we loved in the past, helps us love better in the future. We realize we are better people because of the beloved’s presence in our lives.