I’ve been sitting in front of this screen for an hour.
I have no funny dog puns or Christmas carol parodies. No inspirational words about learning from our dogs. Everything I could write feels trite.
All I can think of are 28 children and adults who will never return home.
But I will share the lesson I’m trying to learn today: Allow people to be stupid in their grief.
Acting Out of Grief
Yesterday, I almost reacted angrily to a friend’s Facebook status about the shootings. But before I did, I asked myself, “Why would someone post something so unhelpful? They’re usually so kind and reasonable in the middle of a controversy.”
And then it hit me. They’re grieving. And grief isn’t rational. They posted something that expressed the emotions in their heart.
And I nearly responded with an equally unhelpful and didn’t-need-to-be-said comment. Because I was grieving too.
How to Mourn
In Jewish tradition, a family formally mourns for seven days following a loved ones funeral. Many parts of the mourning period symbolize the disruption that accompanies a death. But one I find touching is covering all the mirrors in the house.
Grieving is about looking outward. It’s not about worrying how you look.
To me, covering mirrors is like telling someone they have a free ride to be ugly. It’s a compassionate acknowledgment that nothing is normal. And that’s ok. Grief shouldn’t be normal.
No, that’s not right. Grief is normal. It shouldn’t be usual.
Strengthening Compassion Muscles
My choice is to exercise my compassion muscles by allowing us to be stupid in our grief. And I’ll try to keep my compassion muscles toned when I see people acting out their grief in other situations.
There are many things to grieve every day. Just in my animal-loving circles we have breed discrimination, animal cruelty, puppy mills…
As we all know, grief is often expressed in anger and vitriol. I’ve long since learned not to add my voice to angry discussions. I’m particularly good at writing long comments and deleting them.
But maybe I can do better than that by responding to the sorrow behind the comments with grace and compassion.
Will I succeed? I doubt it. After all, I’m not a dog.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
Proud to Call Her Friend
While I was struggling to decide what to write, if anything, I headed over to Tales and Tails to see what Ms. Taleteller and Bunny had to say.
Ms. Taleteller is herself a teacher. In a way, Bunny, her greyhound is too.
As I thought of those teachers in Connecticut who did their best to keep their kids safe and comforted in the midst of horror, I figured that if anyone would have the right words, it would be my blogging friend who is also a teacher.
So if you need some comfort, go read Looking for More Beautiful. And learn why I am proud to call the writer my friend.
Do you find the company of your animal friends comforting in grief? How?
UPDATE: A few people have asked if their FB status prompted this post. I’ll just say that the post was very mild and most of you would be surprised it caused a strong reaction in me. But if my words caused anyone to choose a kind reaction, I’m thankful.
I reach out to gun owners and gun avoiders alike to review all science-based approaches to preventing gun violence and to advocate for whatever changes we need to make in our society to prevent so many deaths (nearly 11,000 last year). If we pass bad legislation that pisses off gun owners, makes gun avoiders think they’ve done something, and does absolutely nothing to stop gun deaths we’ve just duplicated the stupidity of breed bans enacted out of panic that do nothing to stop dog bites.
Leaving soap box now.