Last weekend my son, Charlie, and his cousin rescued a baby duckling that had been separated from his mother, for reasons that we will never understand. Every bone in my body knew we did not need to take in this baby duckling, but I did it anyway. As with so many hard decisions in life, I felt I was standing in between a gunfight, though the two dueling opponents were my head and my heart. I was flooded with countless reasons as to why this was a terrible idea in that moment. Simultaneously, I was overcome with compassion and the realization that this tiny baby would not survive the night in midtown, on its own. So, I begrudgingly got on board. After two nights with this little guy, it became clear that my original hunch was in fact correct. We could not give him the life he so deserved. So, I found someone that could take in this precious, downy creature to raise and then release back out into the wild. But before the transfer could occur, he passed away for unknown reasons.
As I attempt to navigate the grieving process with my tender heartbroken child, I am reminded of some hard truths that surround grief. When we are suffering from a broken heart, no matter the source (loss of life, illness, betrayal, rejection, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of any kind) we must experience the grief. Of course, the fixer in me quickly goes to a place in my head, thinking, “ok, it is time for us to cave in and give him a pet of his own that he has been so desperately craving…. TODAY.” But then I stop and recognize the importance of him feeling this pain and the loss of his precious duckling friend, Ecco, (appropriately named after the restaurant where he was found) in order for him to heal in a healthy way. He must experience the sadness in his own unique manner so that he can begin to establish an understanding and respect for the precious gift of life, that is undeniably accompanied by death.
A friend recently told me that when she was recovering from the removal of a brain tumor, she received an email from a dear friend, telling her that he hoped she did not shortchange the process of healing and experiencing all the emotions that she was battling. That wise perspective quickly seeped back into my thoughts, as I sat with my grief while watching my child also suffer through the pain, that only loss can bring. We too, should not shortchange the grieving process. We cannot replace the one we lost. We should refrain from numbing our feelings with our vice of choice. I have found that when we do, we are only elongating the healing process. We can only run from grief for so long before it catches you and takes hold. Though it feels insanely uncomfortable and often is dressed in an ugly package, it seems it is necessary for us to sit with it. The only way to get through grief is to go straight through grief. I wish I had realized this earlier in my life. But as we all know, sometimes it just takes a little bit of time and life experience for us to come to certain realizations.
We will finally be getting Charlie a pet of his own in the coming weeks. But for now, we will experience the heartache together, while we honor the life of Ecco and the joy and inspiration that he brought into our lives. And the truth is, though we may lose a loved one or pet in earthly form, we have not lost them in spirit. If you can remain quiet and in the present moment, you will find that they never left you at all. They are in fact with you, every step of the way, until we meet again…