Sharing the lessons along the way…

Posts tagged ‘loss’

Letting Go Goes Deeper

Run Free Sweet Girl

Run Free Sweet Girl

It is certainly not my first post on letting go, nor do I suspect it will be my last post on the subject.  The last few weeks, the universe has honed my ability to do so more quickly.

I am no stranger to traumatic experiences, nor am I trauma’s biggest fan despite the familiarity.  What I have learned about trauma is that no matter how quickly you pick up the leftover pieces and continue moving forward, the imprint physiologically remains far longer.

Loss and trauma are strange bedfellows, I have also learned.  Not all losses are traumatic, but most trauma involves a loss of something/someone.

With the vicarious trauma professionally, and from simply watching the news about the various tragedies happening world-wide, experiencing a personal trauma in addition, has created a variety of interesting visceral responses.

Nearly 2 ½ weeks ago, I unexpectedly lost my third dog in three years.  The first two were inevitable as they were seniors, but the third was only five years old, and we experienced a painful final 72 hours of her life together.  She was very vocal about her pain and suffering, and no amount of medication was easing that for her.  I chose not to prolong her suffering.

While I chose to let her go, the experience of her suffering remains both in my heart and in my mind.

I went back to work the following week, and while apparently numb, I found myself extra sensitive to suffering of all kinds.  In my semi-conscious waking state for the first week, I saw her eyes and felt her pressing her painful self into me attempting to ease her pain.  The second week was a bit more interesting in my sleeping state.

Nearly every soul connection I have had in the last decade came flooding back in my dreams.  The gist I could gather when I would awaken was the theme of letting go on a different level.  Interestingly enough, Duke was not among them because he was in my dreams the week before all this happened with Ruby.  It was his death anniversary, which is the last time I posted a blog.

Because it is my nature to look for the lesson and potential growth opportunity in everything, I cannot help but to think more about these losses and the residual effects they may be having on my ability to move forward in my life.  Perhaps that was Ruby’s ultimate lesson for me in our relatively short time together.

Grieving, letting go and healing trauma happens as a process.  It appears to be happening on a global scale, and not just in my personal and professional life, so I have to believe that continuing to move forward while being open to the process itself, will promote that healing process.



Ending an Era–Weeble-Wobble Style

There is a natural order and flow to the universe.  It becomes evident as one period ends and another begins.  No time is it more evident than the ending of one year into another.

This year, on New Year’s weekend, I did something a bit different than I have in the last few.  While I was my usual reflective self, purged things in my house no longer necessary, and such, I was also ever conscious of the need to be still enough and grounded enough to understand what I needed to let go of from 2015.  I wanted to be clear and certain about what would carry over into 2016.

My 2015 was overall quite positive with the exception of the loss of my soul mate dog.  Much of what happened in 2015 involved the ending of an era.  An era that started nearly 15 years ago, and I am not sure I realized the magnitude of that ending.

I didn’t just need the stillness and grounding to close out a typical year, but to close out an era and to put some serious thought into what I wanted to create for the next era that had already begun to emerge in 2015 (late 2014 technically).

Moving forward is probably one of my frequently used tags for this blog, so it might surprise you that I historically am not very good at letting things go.  I have so often in my life hung on so tightly to ideas, thought patterns, people, jobs, situations, friends, etc. long after I knew it was no longer serving me.  I am not sure I can say that in this new emerging era.  I have gotten quite a bit better, and perhaps even more efficient, in my ability to let go and move forward.

It was certainly something Duke and his brother tried so very hard to teach me in their lifetime, so I am proud to be able to honor them by finally “getting” it.  I surprised myself when it was time to let Amore and Duke go because I didn’t feel the need to hang on for dear life for myself.  I felt more the need to let them go for them.  Duke was truly the testament for that.  Amore paved the way for it.

Letting Duke go meant the end of a very challenging era.  My entire life was thwarted, derailed, and I was on a detour for quite a while.  But somewhere along the way, I realized I might just be a Weeble-Wobble.  How else can I explain where I am now, based on where I started?


The detour taught me more than I ever expected to learn, and gave me a perspective that I never thought I would have.  The lessons, the perspective, gratitude, humility, and the strength from that era helped me to move forward at the time of his loss, but more than that, have allowed me to get back on the path with more certainty, in spite of my illness.

It is this foundation I chose to take with me into my life’s new era, and into 2016. What are you choosing to take with you into 2016?  What are you letting go?




Cycle of Grieving

A few years after the onset of my primary lateral sclerosis, I set off on a quest to know and to understand how others deal with being diagnosed with a chronic, progressive illness.

While I am not sure why or what exactly I was looking for, what I did find certainly changed my perspective.

I began my research because I was helping to plan a Women’s Retreat here in the Tampa Bay area for a Spastic Paraplegia Foundation event.

There were common issues throughout the research and most of them had to do with how we perceive our lives and ourselves, which I found quite validating. Not only does our entire perception change, but also our perception of the world around us changes.

For many, including me in the early years, this was a lot to adjust to, and often depression and anxiety became a part of the symptoms requiring treatment in addition to the illness.

What I found most notably was that everyone goes through some version of a grieving process. This was mentioned in most of the literature I found.

The grief process included our sense of usefulness, our body image, our sexuality, our self-worth, our old roles at work, in relationships, and the lists went on with much the same themes.

While I certainly did experience most of the stages of grief early in the progression of my illness, I found that I kept having to repeat the process with each new symptom or with each new symptom that was being better managed.

With progressive illnesses, once you get used to a certain functioning level, it changes, so it seemed to me grieving was cyclical, instead of a simple stage process documented by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross so eloquently in her book and by many others since her in their research.

Her stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Does that mean you do it once and your done?

That certainly didn’t seem to be the case when grieving the death of my mother, nor did it seem to be many of the folks I knew with chronic illness, nor my experience with this illness.

This sort of cycle also occurs a bit less pronounced as we grow older and is a very natural process. I am not sure why we are so hard on ourselves about it when we need to experience it.

I lost a lot in the first couple of years of my illness. I lost my ability to work, I lost my housing, I lost my dogs for 9 months, I lost my independence, my ability to drive and much more.

I had to redefine who Tawny was outside of my jobs. I was no longer a therapist who worked with the homeless. I wasn’t sure what my role would be with illness and limitations in the mix.

In fact, I didn’t feel like I had much to offer at all anymore. I had a choice whether or not to sink into the darkness I was feeling.

Some days I chose to sink and other days, I chose to figure out a way to move forward into this new version of my life and myself.

The Women’s Retreat took place in 2006, and I had just re-learned to stand and could take some steps on land from months of water therapy. I was able to stand and give the workshops I had signed myself up to give, although I can hardly remember what I talked about now.

What I remember about that time frame is that I was having as much difficulty adjusting to standing up to do things as I had adjusting to doing things from a seated position. I kept bumping my head, actually.

I had been doing things in a seated position for more than three years at that point and had gotten quite good at it. Believe it or not, I had to do some grieving at that juncture as well.

I didn’t expect to have to do any grieving at that point, instead I thought I should just be relishing in the accomplishment that no one thought was possible. I did that too, and I don’t believe the grieving process takes away from a state of gratitude.

For me during that time, I needed to wrap my brain around being ambulatory and then wrap it around being even more functionally ambulatory with the implant of the baclofen pump in early 2007.

I wasn’t so much sad about being out of the wheelchair, as I was simply unsure how to proceed with the new reality.

I proceeded to create an entirely different life because I could. While that sounds good, I also created a one that involved very little of what had been included in my previous one. That included the people.

I would acknowledge my pump and my illness when I had to, but more often, I proceeded to behave as if neither existed.

I knew on some level that I was on borrowed time, so to speak, and that the pump wouldn’t be this effective and the illness would eventually progress, so I decided to live as large as I could.

When I got my dog Duke certified as a therapy dog in 2010 and decided to volunteer back at the Homeless Emergency Project (where I lived for six months in 2004, when I couldn’t work enough hours to keep my house) was when I realized my avoidance of people who knew me then.

I didn’t know I was denying anything until that point, but certainly had some feelings to work through after we started volunteering there, which interestingly enough only two months before the accident jarred my pump out of place.

I am going through yet another cycle of grieving now that is taking me back through some of the issues I have faced before. I believe that with each cycle through, we deal with issues at a different level.

Perhaps this is a deeper level or just a different level that we weren’t able to handle before.

While my shared changes here are pretty dramatic, we all experience changes. We all grapple with them periodically and wonder where to go from here with them.

Perhaps understanding that with both negative and positive changes, we will experience some type of grief process can help to take some of the pressure off to help us through those periods of adjustment.

Perhaps thinking of grief differently can help us to re-evaluate our old beliefs about how we cope with change. How many of us think we should be done already dealing with whatever issues we might be facing?

Kitt O'Malley

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