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I learned a bit about grief today...

I wish I hadn’t, of course, but tonight, I can sense something Sacred in play…

A deep and sudden sadness erupted in me this afternoon, when I was leaving a friend’s house so to drive to my campus office. I was on a Zoom call—an informational session for a training I’m interested in—so had to turn off my video as the tears came. The gift and surprise for me was that I really let the tears come. I felt a bit foolish, to be honest. My mind kept its distancing routines audible in my heart’s ear, but I let the tears come.

A simple thing, really, but it was/is deeply painful in my body. The road I was driving is a narrow-ish one, with woods and trees on each side. I saw a squirrel with something in its mouth, heading into the road. It crossed over the first half, so to venture into my lane. I slowed down, fearing to honk because of the Zoom call—which I now realize didn’t matter, as my mike was muted. I slowed to wait for it to cross over into the grass. But it hesitated, unsure. It decided to turn around and go back the direction it came. Which meant I was driving slowly, quietly there on the road, with window open, when the oncoming car ran over it. I heard it die. Or dying, if it wasn’t instant.

A gasp escaped my own mouth, and tears erupted. A sick feeling in my belly. A sense of responsibility because I had stopped to let it pass. My presence was the impetus for it to turn around. As I drove away, I looked back in the rearview mirror. Its little spark of life was leaving… I turned off my camera and let the tears come.

Which is also when I observed in short order my patterns attempting to refuse the pain, the sadness, the grieving. Everything in me worked to push away the sensations, the sadness. “It was just a squirrel.” More tears. “Death happens. It’ll happen to us all one day.” Tears all the same. My mind tried other mantras or rationales to push out the pain, until…

…until I wondered if there was something I could offer or honor in what I witnessed, as painful as it was, is? What if I just let the sadness have me, and weep for the adorable little creature that was no more? My heart-eyes immediately “saw” the eyes and smile of my dog, Nala. I felt the deep connection I feel with her, and this moment of loss became enfolded in my love of her. My heart constricts at even the thought of losing her. Which then made me smile because she would have tried to kill the squirrel herself. I let myself grieve for the little one...

I am aware that the last days have tendered an invitation into grieving, of some kind. I’m also aware that I don’t quite know what that means, or how to accept the invitation.

I do know more viscerally about my resistances to grief than I did when I awoke this morning. As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, every moment is our teacher.

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