This Episode is about a topic we rarely speak of, but we truly need to talk about, death, grief, and loss. We can prepare, but we are never truly prepared for the passing of a loved one. We have heard the expression; you only live once. That is actually not true. We live every day, every single day we are lucky enough to be on this planet. We only die once. So, we have to live, love, and embrace all that life offers us which includes the good, the great, the challenges and the losses.
After Ellen’s son passed away, she didn’t know if she had it in her to move forward; the sadness and grief were overwhelming. And at times, it still hits her like a Mac truck. But now when it hits, it’s like (Oh, there you are Jakey! I love you so much. I miss you so much.) And she actually welcomes the pain. Because – huge heartache only means great love. And how lucky are we to experience that kind of love, even if it isn’t long enough. Jakey comes everywhere with Ellen, as their relationship isn’t over, it just changed. He comes to her classes. He is here with us in spirit right now. It is her mission in life to continue his.
This is grief and loss thrusting forward to create purpose and meaning.
We have some specialists here who live with end of life and loss every day. Our first guest was Dr. Faith Banks. She is a veterinarian who specializes in end-of-life care of our ‘furry’ family members. She founded the first mobile end of life service in Toronto in 2012. Losing a loving pet is devastating but it is the absolute best preparation we can have for the loss of a human family member.
Faith spoke about her background as a practicing Veterinarian for over 25 years. She began in a regular practice, but once she experienced the end of life of her own family dog (Smudge), she pivoted to care for geriatric pets. She realized that it was too difficult to bring elderly pets into the vet, so she started her own mobile service, even though it most often meant Euthanasia. Today, Faith has a Team of 23, including 9 vets and other support staff, who help families say goodbye to their pets at home. They make the end of life for pets and families, beautiful and dignified.
Faith knows that for many kids losing a pet is often their first experience with loss. Future experiences will not be with pets, so this experience may actually help children prepare for loss of other family members. Her advice when it comes to your children, is to be honest and let them know that it is ok to be sad, it is ok to cry and it is ok to talk about it. That one terrible day should not take away from all the joy and the love that you got from all those years with your pet. For with great love, comes great loss!
Our next guest was a Social Worker who specializes in helping navigate the grieving process, when we lose our furry loved ones. Lesley Rosenthal Burnett is a therapist, who validates people’s grief. Lesley said that grief is inevitable and it does not have a time frame. People often don’t get the support they need and that grief is different for everyone. She does not attempt to remove it or lessen it. The best thing to do is to embrace it, help to process it and reintegrate yourself afterward.
Lesley gave us some tools and tips to help us cope and move forward with our grief.
- Try and move and breathe. It helps with sleep and keeps you calm.
- Reach out to someone who understands and can offer you support.
- Journaling, express your feelings.
- Remembering or simply talking about your loss.
- Self compassion and self care are crucial. Do something for yourself that is comforting and healing.
- Give back, an act of kindness will make us feel better.
- Establish an enduring relationship.
- It is ok to cry. It is a great way to express yourself.
Our performer happened to be Lesley’s daughter, the talented Halle Burnett. Halle is a regular participant in the weekly Sunday Jam concerts. Next year, she is further pursuing her career in music in New York to study at NYU. Halle beautifully sang, ‘Unsteady’ by the X Ambassadors.
We got up close and personal with Bevvy, Ellen’s daughter, who at the age of 19, experienced the loss of her brother, Jakey. Soon after, she experienced the loss of her beloved pet, Coops. Bevvy knows grief well and she shared her own thoughts about coping and moving forward with it.
Bevvy spoke of a helpful analogy that she was given. Grieving is like puddle jumping; puddles don’t go away, but eventually, they just grow more shallow. She learned that any emotions that she was feeling were healthy and okay, no matter what outbursts she may have. After her dog Coops died, Bevvy found that these puddles got shallow much quicker. She knew what to expect and although she still can get stuck in these puddles, she acknowledged them as, ‘love in an uglier costume.’
Lindsay at One2GiveTo wrapped up the evening with an update on Ukraine refugees, who are arriving in Toronto. She is currently helping to connect families with things that they need. They are seeking donations of furniture, musical instruments, bedding, bikes, or anything to help people start fresh and welcome them into our city. Please donate whatever you can.
Thank you to all our guests who taught us how we can navigate grief when it comes to loss.
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Alfred Lord Tennyson