There is no map for grief, there is only memoir and it is tattooed onto the body. Mourning is a profoundly upsetting physical experience, as well as felt emotion. Our hearts are broken, the loss is tearing us apart, it is gut wrenching, I’m all choked up.
And we know that the smallest loss can unleash a tidal wave of sorrow and tears. All this I know, but one is never prepared for the reality of experience and the possible impact of Bodhi’s passing on my already compromised body.
For example, during the two week preceding his death, I went through two rounds of antibiotics for a serious urinary tract infection. My nurse visited 3 days after to take a sample to check whether the infection was gone. She asked where Bodhi was and when I told her, we tearfully shared the grief as she has lost her dog the year before.
She took my blood pressure and it was the highest I’ve ever had measured. She took it again before she left and it had dropped nearly thirty points, but was still unusually high for me.
The days following the painful decision were filled with the tears that accompanied it, as well as writing, reading, and responding to the many, many expressions of sympathy along with accompanying sorrow, nods, and smiles. Unfortunately, in addition to the uti, episodes of gastrointestinal distress were also present. Were these the result of continuing infection, the antibiotics, the festive meals we has with visiting family, “simple” symptoms of multiple sclerosis, the “somatization” or bodily expression of grief or a combination of all these or some other factor. Clearly, the experience and expression of sorrow is a tangled knot.
I was also limited in my ability to be distracted from a “virtual” Shiva. I couldn’t take a walk or exercise, no movies at the mall because I was sick, and worst no Bodhi to care for or play with. I was reminded of the research that many people experience illness within the year of the death of a dearly loved family member or friend. It is as if a hole has been torn in our souls. And I surely know that many, many people are in worse situations. At least, I was cared for and about. And the measure of love is, perhaps, at times, reflected in the depth of our grief.
It is important, as well, to remember that mindfulness or the realization of impermanence is not intended to suppress feeling, but open us to our shared humanness and, therefore, to compassion. We can say that tears, blood, and milk are symbolic representations in art, as well as our bodies, of the liquidity, the movement of life.
Origami of Time
We walk, Bodhi and I.
He plows the past up with his nose,
paws loosing scents of other beings
and waves his muzzle to the wind.
Perfect companion, my Tibetan,
turning the smell of was into is.
We stroll through Birch, Cedar, Linden,
Cherry, Oak and Maple.
He marks trees along our way
as I leave these marks to you.