Grief: I Did it. I Leaned in!

©Mikhail Dmitriev from Getty Images via

My dog died.

Patches was 15. She gave me joy. She was sweet. She fit our family perfectly. She needed us. I needed her. And she died.

In the months leading up to the event, I knew it was coming. Don’t most of us know deep down? I decided, in this era of my age, wisdom, life experience, and past traumas with depression and anxiety, that I was going to be maximally gentle with myself this time regarding the day-to-day goings on of errands or chores and the idea of all-day productivity. Gentle was key.

“Past Me” would have experienced the event of Patches’ death and picked right back up with every minutia in life because that is what society and capitalism call us to do. I would’ve gone to dinner that evening with friends or family, honing a smile on my face. Would’ve been hyper-functional in all things work. Would’ve attended my usual gym classes. Would’ve kept going until my fuel tank fell WAY below E.

Past me would have done all of those things for as many days or weeks as I would’ve pushed through, and eventually, likely right around now, which is three months later, Past Me would only now be reaching a random day where my emotions reared their head from the grief, but it would be masqueraded as…rage or rage-cleaning, a panic attack, or even an overwhelming deluge of depression. These delayed resonating feelings are no strangers. I have known them most of my adulthood whenever grief has pushed her way through, past the distractions I was using to cope. Past Me knew all the rigmarole and awful detriment of trying to avoid feelings.

This time, the first time in a long time that I have had to tackle a grief spell (knock on wood), was going to be different. Intention makes a world of difference when it is afforded as a luxury in practice. And I was hellbent on practicing this intention like Nancy Kerrigan leading up to the ’94 Winter Games.

It sucked—a lot.

The first week, our whole house was a blur of lounging around on any surface with a cushion. Blobs. We all wanted simply to exist, make it through the day, watch mindless or comedic TV, and wear our most hermit attire whenever the clock struck for our work and school days to end. Laundry was piling; we ate carry-out and comfort food that likely outdid any summer body that had attempted to match our Vision Boards. And I leaned in. For the first time in my life, I let go of being overtly high-functioning when the vibe wasn’t that.

I crossed off days on the calendar and accepted gifts of condolences and keepsakes from beloved friends. Each day, as I saw old photos of her and sobbed or laughed with fond memories, I paused. I actually decided not to haul out of the car and put off a cry session. Instead, I sat in the car, on my couch, or in bed for long stretches. And what I did was feel. Sounds easy…”feeling.” If only. It takes bravery to stare the emotions directly in the face of hope that the feelings won’t last forever. News flash: they won’t last forever. (Beware, results may vary!)

Steering into month two, I was finding a sense of coming out of the funk. I was finding the relief of getting back into a workout routine and making more and more choices in the direction of “self-discipline” when it came to nutrition and habits. The laundry was getting done. I had redefined what our daily “normal” might look like as we continued to navigate moments of sadness amid the typical days and feelings we knew before Patches passed. I was paying attention. I noticed this feeling of in-between, and I know I ONLY was noticing a change because I decided to lean in. I decided to tap in when the grief storm was coming on those months back, and it paid off.

I think back through my 20 years plus of adulthood. I think back to the singular year I grieved the loss of 5 different people from various walks of my life – including both grandparents AND a significant other. I think back to that era when I trudged along like nothing had even happened. I said yes to every invitation, smile glittering. My hair was done up, and hyper-functionality for college classes and in public while I retreated to only ever grieving when the function of my day made it possible.

Not this time. Not this “Now Me.” That past pain has taught me that the best thing to do – while stereotyped in therapy culture – is to FEEL. Name it and claim it, and MOVE ON. Because if I choose to delay the grief, that is all I’m doing – delaying it. I am leaning in when grief happens, and I know it’s a temporary, non-linear journey. But I got this!

Previous articleSummer Snack Systems
Next articleStruggling with the ADHD Medication Shortage
Anne Beal
Anne is a an ambitious free spirit with a passion to interact with moms from all walks of the journey. She loves her job as a doula through a local hospital network as well as private clients, assisting moms through labor and birth. In addition, she teaches adults part-time as they work toward their career goals and earn their high school diplomas "later in life." Nothing keeps her busier, however, than her toddler son and dogs named Whitney Houston and Patches. Her goal is to stimulate conversations through blog posts that are sometimes provocative, quirky, and occasionally controversial, but always unique!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.