Today my heart is broken. My pug dog Greta died this week and crossed the rainbow bridge on Thursday. She had a wonderful life. Raised on a farm with ducks in southern Illinois she made her way to Chicago and into the life and hearts of Marsha (my first wife) and I. Above being one of the most wonderful and loving (on her terms) animals I have ever known and owned the symbolism of who she has been for me is even greater. Greta was with me for over 12 years of my life and like a proverbial time stamp of stability. With me through a few relationships, heartbreaks, moves, lost and gained pounds, absolute tragedies, chapters closing, and new beginnings. Greta was there. Laying on the couch licking her paws, at my feet, or staring blankly as she often did into the distance. Now she’s gone and I’m struggling a bit. I loved that little dog.
My struggle here is ALLOWING the sadness.
My struggle most of my life has been allowing the sadness.
Growing up I learned that you had to move on, get over it, and look to the next day. Sadness and feeling feelings were not what survivors did. They fought, moved on, and got over it as soon as possible to move onward and upward. This way of being never allowed me to truly process what was going on, feel it, allow it, and heal, and perhaps grow. My personal transformative journey over the past few years has given me permission to feel, to be sad, to not get over it, and to just BE WITH IT.
…and it’s a big be with.
What happens is that the lifetime of sadness that I’ve held back now gets stirred up when sad things happen. It’s like the floodgates open and I’m left stunned. Let me explain.
When I allow sadness in some form, this is what I am reminded of:
The tragic death of my father when I was 7 years old.
Being handcuffed, arrested and taken to jail for fighting when I was 10.
Moving away from my childhood home.
Being called names, beat up and picked on for having long hair and wearing Metallica T-shirts.
Running away from home.
My high school sweetheart breaking up with me (twice).
Feeling lost in college.
Almost losing my life to addiction and all those I harmed in the process.
Marsha divorcing me, losing everything.
Elvis, my first pug dying.
Breaking up with Danielle with whom I was in a 7-year relationship with.
Growing into the man that I am today. Grieving the boy.
…and a number of other life events, experiences, and missed opportunities.
It all comes back like a tidal wave and at times I feel like I am drowning.
It’s overwhelming but I get to feel all of it.
My life today is practically a fairy tale. Magical. I have a life today beyond my wildest dreams. I have felt more joy and love in the past 3 years than I have my whole life. That is directly possible due to the fact that I’ve allowed ALL of the sadness in my life too. It’s hard at times and most of the time I don’t know what I need. I’m asked how those around me can support me and I simply don’t know sometimes other than just allow me to be. Allow me to be sad. To feel my feelings and give me space until I come back.
I am so grateful that I have a team of coaches and healers who understand this. I am even more grateful that my wife and partner Shona understands this. She allows me to process and loves me with however that looks. Sometimes it’s staying up late and alone, sleeping way too much, withdrawing, eating way too much Chinese food, shopping, wanting to be held by her, cuddling, or just sitting there and sobbing. Uncontrollably, ugly crying, and clenching my fists.
My point here is this. Feel your feelings. Allow them. All of them without judgment. If you want more happiness in your life, allow yourself to be with your sadness. For real.
I heard this from one of my brilliant clients today. “You have to see it to not be it”. See your sadness. Life is precious and urgent and in times like these, I am so reminded of it. Baby Greta, Gretz, Meatloaf, Meatball, Peanut and the hundreds of other names I’ve given you over the years thanks for reminding me of who I am through your passing. You were a great dog and brought joy to so many people. Love can be a four-letter word and it can also be everything I am meant to be as a man.
Rest in peace sweet angel.