I feel the need to write about Alf. It has been almost 3 months since he died, and we are coming up on his birthday (on Thursday, July 10). My friend and mentor, Michele Grace, says it takes 12 moons to process through bereavement, and I need to share how the grieving process is working for me. I find that I am very reluctant to even write about it for fear of raising painful emotions (painful emotions that I am, quite frankly, tired of feeling), but I know that the only way out of grief is to plow headlong through it. You can’t go around it; it can’t be avoided. You have to wring every bit of anguish out of your heart before it can truly heal. That is how the sensation feels, this grief – as though my heart is being wrung out.
For the first days, even the first month, I cried every single time he was mentioned, or thought of, or every time some caring person reached out to me in my grief. I cried every time I went out to the barn; in fact, I avoided the barn as much as possible without even realizing what I was doing. I stopped going places. I stopped getting my nails done. I cancelled hair appointments and missed doctors’ appointments. For the first two weeks I could not even function; my schoolwork all seemed so pointless and irrelevant that I couldn’t crack a book, let alone write the 15-page research papers that were demanded of me.
I have since had a lot of healing from the spirit realms, but it has been a long, slow process. The depth of this grief, the layering of this particular bereavement, is surprising even to me. As a shamanic practitioner, the fact that I can see and touch Alf in the Otherworld (and do, every time I go there) has been of some comfort, but (and I need to explain this, as there seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding about this) as humans, we cannot remain in that altered state of consciousness. So it does not alleviate my pain; in fact, it almost seems to make it more acute when I must return to an ordinary state of consciousness. Strange, I know, but there you have it: faith is not a cure for grief. The separation that happens every time I must leave him in non-ordinary reality is, well, difficult. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love seeing him, being able to interact with him on that level, however briefly.
He’s still here, in spirit form. He grazes the pasture and hangs out in his stall at different times. The other horses let me know where he is. Dare will go outside in the morning and call out joyfully to the (seemingly) empty pasture, and sometimes both he and Saffron will peer pointedly into Alf’s stall upon re-entry in the evening. That makes me smile.
When I buried him on April 14th, I put a tarp on his grave to keep the coyotes from trying to dig his body up. Saturday, I removed the tarp in preparation for rolled sod. I have to rake it smooth and then place the sod. That whole process was unexpectedly painful, because the word “closure” came up, and I must say, I hate that word in relation to Alf. I don’t want closure. I want him back. I didn’t want to see a fresh grave revealed as we removed the tarp, as fresh as the day he was placed in it, as though time had stopped for both of us at that instant and only now has resumed, with all the grief and tears fresh again, too. I don’t want to think about his coming birthday. I don’t want to talk about it, either, but I am compelled by something bigger than me to share this with all of you.
You may be relieved to know that I am starting to half-heartedly consider taking care of myself again, though. My hair color really needs attention and I need to resume my exercise program and start eating better. I am considering that Dare needs to start doing something, too. But these are just thoughts running through my head right now, and I’m not sure when I am really going to put these musings into action. The truth is, I just want to be left alone, do nothing. I just feel the need to cocoon myself for a while.
The Universe, however, has had other plans for me. Every time I start to hide, I am called out by someone who needs something from me. I have to admit that I have been resenting those intrusions into my bereavement solitude, but I am starting to think that perhaps the Universe is wiser than I am. Perhaps the best way out is through, yes, but in increments, not all at once. And in between those increments, life goes on. Spirit pulls me back out to the world because the world needs me, true, but I also need the world right now, in spite of my mule-like resistance.
So, on we go.