On Monday our neighbors moved away. In addition to being life-mentors for Hubs and me (they were several years ahead of us in similar PhD programs), they have a Border Collie-Great Pyrenees mix, Sasha, who is Tonks’ best friend. Tonks regularly stayed with them when Hubs and I were out of town. She loved to visit and just hang out with Sasha, so much so that after walks, she sometimes headed for their front porch rather than ours and stood at the door (solid as a 68-pound boulder) as we tried to convince her that it wasn’t time to see Sasha. Their human friendship was one of support when Hubs and I became first-time doggie parents, joy as we were included in their wedding celebration last summer, and togetherness as we jointly shared disappointments and celebrated successes in grad school. So now they’re off to post-docs and we can keep in touch through the miracle of the interwebs, but I just felt so terribly sad about Tonks losing her puppy pal. She struggles so much to get along with other dogs that it felt like a huge blow for her favorite canine to move away. I felt devastated as Tonks tried to go visit Sasha after our Tuesday morning walk, and my sweet momma cried with me and said that it was probably good for me to experience the inability to protect my “kid” from hurt.
All Monday and Tuesday, I felt consumed and helpless, and I struggled to sleep, function, and act normal at work. Coaching practice on Tuesday night, I had a breakdown when some guys playing soccer yelled something (totally innocuous) and I yelled back at them (normally would have been able to laugh it off) and then started to just cry and cry. My sweet team is used to a rather emotional coach, and they comforted me and went on with practice. The best thing that any one of them said to me was, “It’s okay. You can just feel sad.”
What a novel concept! Given permission [from this wonderful, wise-beyond-her years friend] to just feel my feelings, I was able to spend the rest of practice recovering, go home and cry to sweet, always-supportive Hubs for another 45 minutes or so and then go to bed and wake up FEELING BETTER. Wednesday morning I could talk to Tonks without crying, handle seeing the empty, dark neighbor house, and be productive at work!
And then my experiences were validated through the posted link on a friend’s Facebook page. The gist: most people wouldn’t expect someone whose lovely friends and neighbors had just moved away to just get over it. My counselor would say, “Take time to grieve this. It definitely is a loss.” We are entitled to feel loss in our lives, to experience and grieve it in order to be able to move past it. But what I was doing was just trying to act normal and feeling impatient with myself when I couldn’t! This mode of dealing is just the opposite of self-compassion, and in order to be able to invite the joy again, I had to show myself a little grace. I had a good cry and have returned to mostly normal life (though I am still crying as I write this post).
What might you be struggling with in your life that deserves a little bit of self-compassion?