Grief and Loss as a Portal to Awakening.
“But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.” ~ Mary Oliver
Driving back to Dolceacqua from the vets, I’m beside myself with grief, choking and desperately trying to extend my out-breath as I feel myself dangerously moving into panic. I don’t do endings well, the shocking abandonment always kicks in and I become flooded and over-identified with a kind of blind terror that I know is pre-verbal and without words.
Ardhan puts his hand on my knee, he recognizes that I’m absolutely distraught, but is thankfully able to let me make gut-wrenching sounds, as I find myself releasing a tsunami of grief that has been building these last months. Everything is jumbled up all together, previous un-grieved losses aching for an outlet and one in particular that has haunted me for a lifetime.
Last week as I prepared myself for Misha’s sad ending, I touched down into this trauma and the grief and rage was so overwhelming, I literally thought I would die in the process of doing a breath-work session, but I kept on going, allowed the emotions to finally have a say, and came out the other side.
Here and now with Misha dead in the back of our car, no going back, another layer, the intense grief and shock of my mother killing my first dog when I was about 11 years of age and coming home from school to an empty house without her there. The silence, the lack of discussion, my beloved angel gone, taken from me without my permission and annihilated.
Now, I’m gasping for air, the shock of Misha’s sudden death is too intense, rage is nearby as I feel the instinctual wish to kill, finally 50 years later this suppressed energy needing an outlet and triggered by the loss of my beloved dog.
I’m flooded and I can’t believe she is wrapped up dead on the back seat, that there is nothing we can do to reverse this choice and situation. The worst thing is that I feel guilty and these thoughts send me into a horrific spiral downwards.
Could we have tried harder, should we have waited another week or so before making the fateful decision, especially since today she seemed so peaceful and able to walk from the house to the grass outside, even managing to pee and eat her food without so much difficulty?
Ardhan reminds me that we chose this together and I am immensely grateful of how much closer we are together and how amazing he is being with the whole process.
Knowing how I default to self-doubting, I asked him to reassure me when necessary, that her condition could not improve given her intolerance of the drugs for leishmaniasis and with her debilitated state from this parasitic infection, she could not have the two more operations on her back legs which were essential given her critical problem with both knees.
Ultimately, without the operation she was crippled, and with the operations she was stressed and weakened, whilst already suffering from a deadly sickness that is also putting our dog Chammy and both of us at risk.
Leishmaniasis is a cruel and slow killer, and it’s also a human problem. It isn’t transmitted dog to dog or dog to human, but the sandflies and pappataci can bite Misha and then infect all of us, which is a deep concern.
She might have had a week or two more without going downhill, but today she was happy and before going in for the anaesthetic, had a wonderful time with Ardhan sniffing and checking out other dog smells.
Let’s face it, there is never a good time. Taking a dog to the vet to be put down, to go through euthanasia, is one of the most brutal choices you have to make, but you do it out of love. The idea of not seeing Misha again, not hearing her different barks to be let in the outside gate or her pushy demand for food or her crazed yelping around the mountainside, feels unbearable.
It feels impossible to imagine that I won’t be able to stroke her silky ears or look in her dark brown eyes as I did saying the Hoʻoponopono prayer right to the end, so much gratitude for all she has taught me, for the love that will never end, regardless of her physical body giving out.
We are burying her at the top on our new rose terracing, where she can soar over the mountain and remind us always of her orgasmic howls and wild, free spirit. I promised her in those last moments that I would honor these missing qualities in myself and that every time I touch into them, I will feel her spirit in particular, the gratitude overflowing for the transmission she gifted me/us with.
I feel all my dogs in my heart, their wonderful personalities locked deep inside me, as I tune back into the qualities they transferred onto me, each and every one.
Suddenly, with no warning, I ask my partner to turn right across Dolceacqua bridge. Intuitively, I know I have to go to the church. It might be closed but I stagger out of the car door, sobbing uncontrollably, snot-ridden tissues clutched in my hand. I make my way for the church. The door is closed but I turn the handle and thankfully it opens.
I run fast, falling towards the altar, collapsing prostrate at the foot of a tall statue of Christ begging for forgiveness, first in English and then in Italian with ‘perdonami’. I cannot stop, wailing so loudly and with huge force, I’m amazed that someone doesn’t enter and tell me to ‘pull myself together’. I haven’t set foot in this church for years.
I have no idea how I found myself at the foot of this Christ statue, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been taken over, pulled towards Him. Something in me knows that this is a process I must surrender and go through and that grace will ensure I’m not disturbed. I look up at Christ and my hands are drawn to His hands, the red blood, touching over the stigmata and feeling this profound connection and peace.
I look into His eyes, and as I stay longer than a few seconds, the statue transfigures and becomes Christ’s human face. I’m stunned, transfixed.
He is so beautiful, dark-skinned and radiating. Suddenly in that same moment, I’m shot back at the foot of the cross, one of Magdalene’s sisters, followers of Christ, looking up at my Beloved Master. I feel the absolute heartbreak, the agony as He suffers, as I suffer watching it all. I am powerless to do anything about it. Impotent and afraid, I am beside myself with grief. I beg for mercy again.
The words just pour out of me as I seek redemption, recognize my separation from Him, for eons.
Guilty that I know in this present state, this life I have chosen, I have forsaken Him, forgotten His teachings and given up on the Truth. Still His face softens as He tenderly gazes upon me and I see the merging of a female face, Magdalene and Christ together as one, this Hieros Gamos sacred marriage of masculine and feminine overlaid together, indistinguishable.
Somehow the feminine face of Christ is also looking down on me with such tenderness, love and compassion. I am motionless, gazing back 2000 years, feeling that penetration that is breaking me apart with remembrance and deep inner knowing.
I cannot believe how stunningly beautiful He is, the translucent nature of His suntanned skin, the stillness and safety I experience staying totally focussed on the love pouring through His eyes. I ask for guidance, beg to be shown how to stay with the Light of His teachings, how to not lose connection with the Way again, to re-member always what I knew so deeply all those years ago.
Everything becomes clear, the breaking open of my shell as a result of so many things collapsing around me, the devastating suffering and losses I have experienced for so many long years and the agony of Misha’s sudden and unexpected demise.
This afternoon, to make yet another heart-rending decision, it felt too much, I wanted out, the pain was so intense. In the car I say to my partner, I want to join Misha in the hole he dug this morning. I’m exhausted from feeling like I’m being punished, the endless shocks and blocks that are excruciatingly painful and beyond my comprehension.
I know I wouldn’t do it, but the pain is excruciating and it helps just to believe I have some semblance of control and choice in this unbearable pain.
Then I remember the word Rose and how only two days before the words came to me of what it represents. ‘Restore our Sacred Essence’, the red rose as the symbol of Magdalene and Mary, the rose child who can open Her heart to hold the agony and the ecstasy. The wounds are the gift and blessing just as Jesus said for Thomas to feel into his stigmata in order to believe.
I feel so grounded and present from the energy surge but also completely shaken and enlivened by this experience. Eventually after maybe 15 minutes, I leave after taking a photograph and promising myself I can return at any time to be re-charged with this transmission.
Energy is pulsating through my body, I feel in an altered state and I know that this grace will continue to act through me for some time. I return to the car with Misha wrapped up on the back seat and Ardhan asks if I want to share. I am speechless for a while while the vibrations settle, the cramps in my feet continuing for 10 minutes but something I know to accept and allow.
As we turn towards our road up to our house, I ask Ardhan if we can stop and get my post which I’ve left for a while. He hands me a few envelopes and I see one that has my handwriting on the front, immediately realizing the synchronicity and timing, that this is the letter I wrote from my Higher Self, while on the April breath training in Rome, perfectly timed for me to open now.
I ask Ardhan to wait a moment while I read it out loud to him and I feel myself viscerally drop into embodiment, chilled to the bone with the grace of my words and the final sentence in particular which asks me to ‘please accept the sacred invitation’. I know they are also His words, I am not alone.
I know this is the radical commitment I am being asked to make at a soul level and that has just been confirmed by Christ in our local church and secondly by the magical timing of this letter only five minutes after this divine transmission.
I know, as my shaman says, that most people are not actually dead but they are not fully alive, or as David Whyte the poet writes so powerfully, they are living ‘lives of quiet desperation’.
With my own trauma and losing a twin brother in the womb, I have always had one foot in this world and one in the other, and I recognize it’s time for me to fully arrive and play my part here on Earth.
Most of us are not saying a full Yes for one reason or another (often with early developmental and/or inter-generational trauma), because to feel deeply, facing reality instead of shutting down or opting for illusion and distraction, requires immense self-compassion and an equal dose of courage.
We have all been fragmented as a way to manage overwhelm and trauma and have lost our sacred connection, becoming numbed out and disassociated, splitting off in so many ways we don’t even realize. It is agony to feel so deeply in a culture that seeks to deny our emotions, but as Kahlil Gibran says, joy and grief are bedfellows, there is no half-measure.
Whilst this healing process is not for the faint-hearted, the more we shut down on grief, the more we cannot access the full abundance and depth of joy that is truly possible.
To heal from Lyme, I know I have no choice, it’s about coming into right relationship with myself, to move from inner apology to inner authority, seeing how this is mirrored in my own immune system, in order to heal and therefore be of real service to others. This is my path as a wounded healer, this ‘forgetting’ is what I and so many of us have done in order to survive but which is now untenable.
This is the deeper ache, the longing for reconnection with myself, with my sacred essence, with others and with life itself.
This is what Misha has catapulted me into, this is the power of grief as a way to force us kicking and screaming into spiritual embodiment, this path that for eons has been forbidden and denied. The word ‘demori’ comes to mind which means ‘I remain’, the slogan that the surviving Cathars used during their horrific genocide by the church.
This is my personal path and this is the return of the Sacred Feminine, and whether we are religious or not, which I am not, the light of the Christ consciousness is available to us all, if we want to step into this re-membrance of who we really are. The truth of the divine that remains within us as Jesus originally taught, in our own hearts, not outside of us as the church deliberately misinformed and enslaved us.
So this is the letter, my soul words: “Sofia, it’s time to show up, to make sure you are fully available and to ‘shine’ your hard-earned wisdom, courage and beauty. You have so many gifts and unique qualities that come from your life experiences and the depths of what you have had to navigate, to strip away at what doesn’t serve in order to find your truth.
This clarity and discernment needs to be shared with others with the tenderness, compassion, humility and grace which is yours and yours alone to offer. The world needs you to sprinkle the fairy dust that is both delicate and potent, desperately needed. Please accept the sacred invitation.”
Each morning after Misha is gone, I wake and there is a devastating silence in the house without her, a dread about going downstairs with the emptiness. Chammy our other dog is frighteningly depressed as well.
Yesterday I grieved all day, did a long, deep breath-work session with my partner honoring Misha, but today I know I need to take physical action on my land helping the newly planted roses, as I so easily fall into the well of suffering. I must remember the promise I made to my sweet dog, to myself.
I ask Chammy to come with me on the walk, trusting that together we at least can do this even without Misha. She comes reluctantly and then shortly after, turns back to go home. I feel the pang of grief again, wondering the point of walking alone, noticing my control issues kick in with some anger that Chammy is not supporting me right now.
Then I get it. I choose to go on the walk alone. Regardless. I can choose life even if I am fully in grief, I can still say a Yes, taking one step at a time.
I walk down the mountain doing the Heart Coherence breath, counting on each hand. Five in, five out. Repeating the affirmation ‘I flower and thrive’, in and out with the breath. Staying focused and determined, building up speed as I walk down the mountain road feeling stabilized and stronger.
Returning back I am surprised and delighted to see Chammy coming around the corner some 20 minutes later. I know by grace, she is mirroring this divine invitation for me to walk just for myself, that this is enough, just as Gerald Manley Hopkins said, ‘for this reason I came’.
We walk home together, happy, autonomous beings and yet in sacred union. I feel Misha with us, her spirit flying high and me carrying her teachings of how to live with this spontaneous, instinctive, curious, rebellious, wild, free energy that was her precious gift to me.
In the words of Mary Oliver, her beautiful poem reminds me of how crucial it is to save the only life worth saving. And to sit, as Rumi said in one of his writings, and trust that what I want also wants me, is longing for that connection, if I can only be with myself, patiently trusting this mystical and co-creative secret that has the capacity to totally transform every aspect of my life.
Sofia Livingstone lives in Liguria, Italy on an isolated olive tree farm, with her partner and four footed ones, distilling perfumed roses and creating natural produce from the land. Writing alchemic stories and poetry saved her life from soul murder, and is the creative medicine and joy that fuels her life. Sofia has been on a long journey with extensive trainings of all kinds, to heal individual and inter-generational trauma with the ‘brutal grace’ of chronic, debilitating illness as her initiation and greatest teacher. She is a ‘trauma-informed, shame midwife’, a wounded, mystic healer, inspired to help jumpstart other beating hearts, so that they too become the author of their own lives, reconnecting with their divine sovereignty and the intimate territory of their soul.