be with yourself

Have you ever felt as though the times you are feeling the loneliest, the most needy, and the most desperate to be around friends and family, are the times you find yourself alone? Or are you someone who crams their schedule full of social events and yet surrounded by people, you often feel completely isolated? I think that when we’re feeling lonely and in desperate need of attention and love, what we really need, is love and care from ourselves. Our sadness will not go away until we turn inwards.

On Sunday night my puppy died. I can barely write that sentence without crying. We were moving into our new home (yay, we have a home!) and he was following us around the house as we moved in furniture and white goods. Once or twice he was out of sight and each time I called him back he was close by. I should have put him on the lead, but I thought he wouldn’t wander far and if he did, it would be to annoy the dog next door or chase the cows in the property behind us. Never did I suspect that he would head towards the road, 100 metres away across a train track. But he did. And the driver who hit him appears to have been going a lot faster than the 50km/hr speed limit. The driver picked up his body, and put it behind a dumpster rather than calling the phone numbers on our pup’s tag. The local grocery store owner found him on Monday and called to let my partner know.

So the last few days have been a blur. A lovely new home with a beautiful view, a new job just a short walk from our house, and my puppy is gone. And I blame myself. I blame myself for not watching more closely, for not tying him up, for going to the neighbours’ houses when we realised he was missing rather than heading straight to the road. Part of me knows that I need to forgive myself, but I can’t just yet.

Instead, after two days of feeling lonely, sad and sick, I got up on Wednesday and decided to give myself the care and love that I was craving. At first I didn’t trust my thoughts not to head into dangerous territory, so I distracted myself. That’s not too hard when you have a whole house to set up, so I turned on an audiobook (much easier to listen to than music which is designed to evoke emotion) and busied myself cleaning and organising. I also decided to do everything I could to nourish myself with healing food. Green smoothies, roast lamb and vegetables, chai, more vegetables and of course, chocolate (sugar-free so I didn’t end up in an emotional heap on the floor after the inevitable sugar crash).

This morning I got up, made lemon in warm water and sipped it on our deck as the moon disappeared behind the trees and the sun brightened the sky. I allowed myself to notice the way the sunlight reflected off the deep red leaves of the maple tree next door, the single magpie that flew in an arc across the sky, the gentle pillow of mist that sat above the valley in front of me. From my position on the deck I also saw my pup’s grave. It hurt. It hurts every time I think about him. But at least now I’m starting to accept that in order to muddle my way through the pain, I am going to have to sit with it first.

Pain and sadness are needy. They will fight bitterly for our attention. They push people away, and stop us from enjoying the present, until we turn to face them. Until we acknowledge their presence, and accept that they might be sticking around for a while. Until we learn that they are normal responses to difficult situations, not embarrassing emotions that need to be denied into oblivion.

After all, pain and pleasure, sadness and happiness, they’re two sides of the same coin, right? How can we ever be truly happy and appreciative of our lives until we know what despair looks like?

What do you do to look after yourself when you feel pain and sadness? Please share your insights by leaving a comment below.