This is why I write.
This is why I do what I do, why I share openly and honestly about every struggle I go through. Because for too long, I thought I was the only one struggling. I compared my worst to everyone else’s best, which is what we all do in this digital age of social media now. We’ve filtered out the negative, made our own fake news in a way, that saturates our senses with other’s celebrations, never their struggles.
I stand, above all, for showing the story in progress. If you think about it, we are all stories in progress. We are all always recovering from life. From a loss, a grief, a disappointment, an unexpected change. Even the good things in life often bring about feelings of loss because they’re still a change we have to adjust to and there’s always something we must relinquish along the way.
I think what we need more of is seeing behind the curtain, behind the facade. What are the real struggles our friends and family face? What do they wrestle with daily? What challenges do they face, and how do they get through them? We used to live in tribes where every night we gathered around a fire and told our stories of rising and falling. Young ones could look to the older generations and learn from their honest retelling of how they fell, how they wore disappointment, how they dealt with the crushing grief, how they eventually taught themselves to dare, to risk it all again on loving and living.
I often finding myself hungry for this kind of tribe. Sure, there’s information all over the internet about how to overcome challenges, how to be successful, how to stay motivated, how to cope with loss. But, they’re sanitized, and often aimed at some sweeping happy ending. Our uncanny inclination to focus on the positive often glosses over how do we actually, step by step, get up and rise again after a fall?
My dog of thirteen years, who saw me through 2 years of seizures and before that a year of depression, and before that 21 deaths in 5 years, died on Sunday, suddenly and unexpectedly. I have found myself combing the internet for coping tools. I’ve found articles on the stages of grief, I’ve found online pet loss communities, YouTube videos, and while they all offered some good information, they lacked a personal touch. It’s not the same as talking to a friend you trust who knows what you’re going through and can act as a sort of guidepost. What’s helped me most is family and friends reaching out and saying, “I’ve been there, too. This is what happened to me. This is how I felt.” Or, “It’s been two years, and there’s still a hole in my heart.” I just needed permission to feel how I’m feeling. I needed to see how others moved through it. When we experience loss, disappointment or failure, or an inexplicable depression, we feel like all sense of certainty has been temporarily removed. We need something to hold onto. We need…each other.
Over the last six years since I started this blog, I have never taken one platform and made it mine. This is not a grief blog, a loss blog, a survivor’s blog, a mental health advocacy blog, a post-addiction-recovery blog. It’s a RECOVERING-EVERYTHING blog. That’s why I now call it RISE AGAIN, because we are all, always rising again.
My platform is: the brave and brokenhearted life in action. My hope is, in letting others see me when I’m falling, it gives them permission to struggle, too, which hopefully instills in others a sense of self-acceptance, empathy and understanding that will empower them to move through their own recovery and rising. I write about whatever I’m struggling with, or celebrating. Sometimes, the stories have been too big for me to speak about when they were in progress, and that’s o.k., too. But, eventually, I try to open up about what I went through, how I got through it, how I felt at the time, where I am now. I feel like we need more role models of honesty and struggle. Life is hard. We need to model to each other how to keep going through the brutiful times (brutal + beautiful, Glennon Doyle).
The coolest part? When we take a risk and share our struggles, we open the gateway to gaining tribe. This week, I’ve written openly about how I’m feeling, even though I know grief and loss are uncomfortable topics. In doing so, dozens upon dozens of people have reached out to me and showered me with empathy and support, sharing their own stories of losing a pet. It has helped tremendously. I think it’s the main thing keeping me going right now, actually. I feel a sense of tribe and community. I feel like I have guides walking alongside me on this path who can say, “I’ve walked ahead of you on this road. I got you. I’m here. We’ll get through this together.”
It reminds me a lot of the Al-Anon community I’m so grateful to be part of, which is firmly founded on the 12th step of service to others. “When anyone reaches out for help, let the hand of Al-Anon always be there to guide them, and let it begin with me,” our table placards read.
So, I write to let it begin with me. To inspire it to begin with you. The best teachers are those who have walked through it before. Whatever you’re recovering from, remember the great Maya Angelou’s famous words, “When you learn, teach.” You don’t have to hold classes or workshops – when you see someone walking a path you’ve already traveled, just suit up, show up, and let them know, they’re not walking alone.
Be willing to be brave and brokenhearted with your people, on your social media, with your family and friends, then watch what happens when you find the blessed gift of…your tribe.
We’re in it together, guys. That’s all that matters. ❤
Next blog, I’ll talk more about how I’m coping with this loss to give you a sense of exactly how I’m coping, what’s helping, what’s not, etc. And if you’ve experienced the death of a pet, will you take a moment to comment below and share your story? What helped you through that difficult time? I’d love to hear from you. ❤