I have been away from my animal blog for some time now, dealing with a number of serious, personal challenges and spending time writing my first novel. In the process I’ve thought about what I want to accomplish going forward.
A Beating Heart has been a joy to produce and I hope that it has prompted some recipients to think outside their usual parametres of being in the world. I know it has for me. This has caused me to question whether I want to continue to work on ABH and on my career in writing? Should I combine the two pursuits? Should I have 2 blogs – one for ABH and one branded under my own name?
I can cover more topics if a blog is in my name, but A Beating Heart would still be a big part of the content. As I was thinking about this decision, the stages of human grief popped into my mind. Go figure! I remember my first introduction to authentic pain. Not the “mom, my brother took my chocolate bar” – but the “mom, my brother is dead” version. This gut-wrenching slam in the head realization that I would never see this person again. I was in my early twenties when my older brother was killed by a drunk driver. Strangely, both their names were Michael.
In 1969 Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief in a book called On Death and Dying
Denial – Grief – Bargaining – Depression – Acceptance
At some point, either by Kubler-Ross or someone else, two more stages were added:
Processing and Moving On Productively
I can see why these models may have been problematic – if you are already grieving – now you have to worry about grieving properly – what a lot of unnecessary stress and chaos.
In recent years these models have been challenged and investigated further. Not everyone goes through the process of loss in the same way. Most of us do the best we can at an agonizing time.
I can’t recall if I went through these stages when Michael died. The pain was over-whelming, daily, soul-crushing, and never-ending. I still think of him every day and wonder what if …
It made me ponder the path my family walked at that horrific time. My brother was an old soul at 22 – loving, a new father, kind in the extreme, funny, caring, helpful, generous, loyal, and hard-working. He possessed the right amount of ‘wink and naughty’ to make him delightful company. When he died – three women in our small town who knew my family and were pregnant at the time – named their sons Michael.
Fast forward – now, it’s an accepted during grieving to establish what works for you. If someone asked me how I dealt with Michael’s death I would say that I kept his memory alive every day, kept pictures and objects close to me, tried to support my parents, and attempted to accept the daily, emotional chaos as it surfaced. I talked to friends and later on in life to a therapist. Death and grief alter you forever. It’s important to acknowledge and accept these changes and not let regrest and bitterness cloud your life.
These memories were going through my mind recently when I thought about the stages I had gone through, on a different, but nonetheless difficult path. The world is changing, and often not in good ways. New tools are needed to counter the sadness, cruelty, and feelings of helplessness many of us face.
In 2013 I got involved with animal issues. I started to “think” and took action slowly on this new venture. In 2015 I changed my eating habits and became a more compassionate consumer. I’m not perfect – I still eat salmon and tuna – but hope, one day, to remove them from my diet. No dairy, cheese, meat, chicken, lamb, veal, or eggs. I am astounded at the yummy vegan food that is available at the grocers and in restaurants – big yum!
I came to realize how easy it is to change, once you have a reason, and how kindness is not some random thing, but a really easy choice in life. In my younger years – I was a leather hound – all items have been given away or donated.
Guests to my home know that dinner will not include dairy or meat. If someone wants to bring an item for themselves, I welcome them without judgement.
The thought process that I went through as I started to put my values over my actions with regard to animals involved the following realizations with respect to how I had been living:
Dawning awareness – prompted by animal marches and social media.
Shame at my naivete.
Resistance to change – surely it can’t be this bad.
Acceptance – one of the hardest steps.
Support from like-minded people.
Action and change.
Sharing a new perspective without judgement of others – also a hard step.
People routinely keep dogs, cats, horses, tropical fish, turtles, birds, lizards and snakes as ‘pets’. Dogs and cats are often free-roaming, inside, pampered pets. Many of the others are not in their natural habitat – confined instead to aquariums, cages, stalls, and chains. This should make us think! How would you like to live in one room of your home for the rest of your life? Like many pets – who never go outside or swim, walk, or fly freely.
When it comes to larger domesticated or wild animals, they are routinely subjected to the agricultural industry, a circus or zoo, or life in one of the entertainment fields. Many are also the victims of ego, power, status, greed, hunting, poaching, sport fishing, experimentation, the disgrace of bull fighting, or the leather and clothing industries. Many are destined for home or office decor, Think of a mounted lion head or a zebra skin rug. All are accepted ends to the life of a once magnificent creature.
How has humanity sunk to such an ignominious low? The answer is easy – ‘ because we can and therefore we do’.
If you have begun to think about personal responsibility and how you live in the world, the environment, animal cruelty in its many forms, social change, and the animals and plants who make up Mother Gaia – do so without blaming yourself for not knowing. Instead celebrate yourself for being open-minded and willing to consider a kinder way of living.
It won’t be easy! You may be mocked by friends or family as a ‘softie’ and told – ‘animals are here to serve us – what’s the big deal?
You need to set this aside and follow whatever voice is calling to you instead. Perhaps you will make changes or maybe you will look into these issues and decide that they don’t violate you moral code.
Everyone will live as they choose. However, the stakes are higher now for our planet and eventually for humankind. It may be time to consider how you can help or change.
I sleep a little sounder knowing that my actions in recent years matter, and for the most part, don’t contribute to the suffering of others.
How about you?