My beloved cat, Frankie, passed over several months ago. While I felt sad at the time and continued to grieve his loss, I was comforted that he passed peacefully at home surrounded by the beings that he loved most. I was not ready to place his photo on my dresser beside the pictures of pets who previously passed on, yet it felt like his death as his life, unfolded just as it was meant to. He had a long full life and had recovered from numerous illnesses along the way. One time in particular, he literally died and came back to life in my arms.
Just a few days ago, I found myself wondering what might motivate me to write my next blog. I had no plan to write about loss and had set the following intention: “in each moment I am fully present, aware and connected to both the Earth and my Spiritual Guides”. Since we teach what we need to learn most, I am sharing this journey with you.
2 nights ago, seemingly out of nowhere, I was overcome by a tsunami of grief and guilt over his passing. I found myself questioning the choices that I made concerning his care. My appetite disappeared and I have been experiencing the nausea that for me is associated with self-blame. This sick feeling laced with regret is the single most toxic emotion to my soul. It was not that I could not breathe, it felt like I did not want to. I have been feeling like I want to die; more accurately that I don’t want to live with the pain and guilt.
A month ago, I spoke to a woman who told me that she cannot forgive herself for the death of her dog. I urged her to consider self-compassion, and let her know how much her dog loves her and that he does not want her to suffer. The concept of self-compassion seemed foreign to her and she asked me what I meant by it. I explained how she might treat herself with love and care, much as someone who loves her would. The notion of being kind and gentle to herself did not seem like a possibility to her at the time.
As I sit now, in the present moment, I feel some sense of relief. I can see the gift that lies beneath my grief and guilt. This experience allows me to understand emotional pain on an even deeper level, so that I can carry out my life purpose of helping people and animals heal together. It also offers me the opportunity to master self-love, the lesson that I am here to learn. Perhaps this will be Frankie’s greatest gift to me. I am grateful to him for this and so much more.
Behind the thin veil of my heartache lies Frankie’s unconditional and undying love for me. As the rawness of my grief subsides, I will once again be able to feel his presence. To sense his essence and the strength of his love, I need to first extend this love to myself. Frankie could not be a greater source of inspiration to me, if he were sitting on my lap batting at my hair. Our relationship lives on in a new and infinite form.
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7 thoughts on “Healing With Self-Compassion”
What a very nice lesson to learn and thank you for sharing the story. I hope your friend learns to practice self care and love.
Thank you, Jill. Very moving, very upsetting, very enlightening. I’m feeling things I have no time to pass on; my plane to Paris leaves in a half hour, but I am taking your blog with me. I’m leaving behind 5 cats in the hands of a cat sitter who has been taking care of them in my absence. Yet I feel terribly guilty and irresponsible. Why is there always so much pain? Barbara
I seem to be seeing more and more coverage of animals both on PBS and even mainstream news lately recognizing their intelligence and sensitivity. And I know I pay more attention to it too because of being in touch with you. I am glad to hear you are working through all your feelings about Frankie and the reminder to follow your own advice to others is key. Thanks.
Hi Jill. After reading your story about Frankie, I can’t help but associate with living with a beloved cat who’s sick. I’ve always said I would never let Rocy suffer- I’d rather put her down than have her in pain. But inadvertently I HAVE let her suffer and am now feeling the guilt. (And it’s not even about my guilt- it’s not about me- it’s about how SHE feels.)
Over the past few months, at 18 she’s been lethargic- sleeping a lot, in a place and with a posture of feeling ill. (Her kidneys are very shrunken & she’s dehydrated.) At the vet’s request, I began giving her twice-weekly fluid infusions. But because she reacted poorly to too MUCH fluid, I stopped the injections for a month, during which she did not do well either so I’ve resumed them, but at a lesser dose. My question is: Since cats can’t talk to us, how are we to know the best course of action for them? I’m hoping, of course, that the twice weekly lesser dose will now help her, and she’s become extremely affectionate- much more so than before- but is that because she’s feeling better? Somehow knows I’m trying to help her? Or is it a case of “saying goodbye”, like stories of cats getting affectionate at the end like I’ve heard? I’m feeling so guilty for letting her suffer over the past month. I don’t know how to make it up to her. Stopping for awhile was obviously the wrong choice because she’s perked up again now that I’m giving her less but GIVING her again.
I don’t even know what kind of advice I’m seeking from you- all I can do now is watch her closely and hope she continues to improve, and if not it’ll be her time. But I’m interested to know your thoughts. Thank you, Wendy A.
I always cry when I read your blogs, Jill! So very touching! I also read the responses. I hear the word “guilt”. It’s something I felt when my pit bull suddenly passed away from cancer. It’s something I feel when I have to leave my other dog alone in the house for the day. It’s something I feel when I see my kids hurting. We can only love them with all that we have. We can’t bear the responsibility of forces that we cannot control. My sweet dog had cancer. While he was being put down I wondered what I did to get him sick. Maybe I fed him too much people food. Well, I still feel pain in my guts when I imagine his face. So I also imagine what he would’ve said to me during his last minutes. “Mom, thanks for loving me and taking such good care of me. I had so much fun. You gave me everything you could. Sorry this happened, but it’s my time. See you later. Love you!!!” By the way, I knew when it was his time. I think every one does.
Thank you for your comments and support. Since there are many common threads in your words, I thought I would write one response for all of you.
Dana, self-care and love is what our pets want for us. We honor them, as well as ourselves, when we engage in these practices. Claudia, reading everybody’s thoughts and responding has helped me heal on an even deeper level and reclaim the truth of my relationship with Frankie.
Faith and love are more powerful forces than pain. What gets me through my most painful moments is a deep faith that everything unfolds exactly as it is meant to. When the outcome is not what we wished for, it is not because we did something wrong. It merely means that what we envisioned was not for our highest good. Sometimes I understand why events are happening in the moment; other times I just trust that there are reasons I do not yet see; still other times I get it in the moment and later forget. In all of these cases, it is faith that brings me home to my truth.
Barbara, with deep sensitivity, sometimes comes pain. I strive to remember the distinction between pain and suffering. Pain, while not pleasant, is usually tolerable and tends to pass. It is the toxic thoughts that we pierce through our own hearts that create suffering. When we suffer, we are usually either in the past or the future. We can choose to release these thoughts by shifting to the present moment. Animals naturally do this and they have much to teach us. Your cats are here to show you how to rise above the pain. They invite you to release your guilt and self-judgement into the Seine.
Wendy, Rocy is not focusing on your past actions and sees no need for guilt. There is nothing to make up to her; there is only love. She loves being with you, and wants you to enjoy being with her, without fear/guilt. While she does not blame you for experiencing these emotions (or anything else), she asks you to let them go so you can experience a sense of peace and well-being.
Sometimes the greatest challenge is to clear away the fear – of making the wrong decision – of suffering – of loss. Without the fear, we can connect to our animals with our hearts and appreciate each moment with them. When we listen in this way, we know what to do.
Anita, you are more in touch with your animals than you realize. You can imagine what your big boy was thinking because you know deep in your heart that those were his sentiments. He thanks you for always having his back and still has a blast hanging out with you and his little brother.
The truth is that life/death are not in our hands. Animals have soul journeys, as we do. When their time to pass arrives, it is so they can move on to their next experience. Animals typically pass over with more grace and acceptance than humans. While they feel sad about physically separating from us and sense our deep distress, they are much less tied to their physical bodies. They know that loving energy transcends all.
Hi again Jill. Thank you for your reply. I know it wasn’t my fault that I’d stopped her saline infusions for awhile- the vet tech who was coming to do it was on strict orders from her Dr for complete bedrest during her last month of pregnancy & Rocy hates going out to the vet so I just gave her a break bcz too much was having an adverse effect on her anyway, she’s so small & skinny. But as I saw her lethargy increase, that’s where the guilt came in. It’s hard to watch your pet not feel well. But, here’s an update: Margaret (the Vet Tech) is back, giving Rocy her twice-weekly but lower dose injections, and Rocy is improving! She’s become less lethargic & more loving. So I guess she’s saying thanks, Mom for making me feel better, & not saying goodbye after all.
Just thought you’d like to know.
Thanks for being there for me with your kind, gentle, insightful thoughts, Jill.
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