In This I am Sisyphus

In an interview on NPR this morning; Edward Hirsch was discussing his grief at the loss of his son and his processing of this overwhelming grief through poetry.  As Hirsch was reading an excerpt from Gabriel, A Poem,

The mountaintop is not in sight
Because there is no mountaintop
Poor Sisyphus grief

I became aware that in my love and grief for my Great Dane, Addie, I have become Sisyphus.  Sisyphus is a mythological figure who had cheated death and he was punished by the gods for doing so.  They condemned him to an eternity of rolling a rock up a hill, and just as he reached the peak of the hill he would lose control of the rock, the rock would roll back to the base of the hill and Sisyphus would be forced to begin again.

Each time I walk through the door and Addie greets me with her beautiful brown eyes I become the Sisyphus who is watching the rock roll down the hill. In those moments I am forced to acknowledge that the rock is returning to its resting place, only to call to me to push it up the hill once again.  Addie controls when the journey begins again, and it is in this gray area that I am most uncomfortable, it is in this gray area that I am Sisyphus.

Hirsch pointed out that he does not believe that grief ends, but that we become stronger in dealing with our grief; poor Sisyphus grief.  We do not become stronger in the process but in the understanding that we have become accustomed to the repetitive motion of rolling that damn rock up the hill.  I don’t think, based on my grief for my father, that relief comes when I reach the summit but instead relief hits when the rock slips out of my hand and is rolling down the hill; in those moments, just before beginning the journey to fetch the rock, I can tell myself that the grief has left me.  Addie’s journey forces me to enjoy the brief reprieve because just like Sisyphus, I cannot ignore my penance, the rock is lying at the base of the hill and it is mine to roll, and yet it is not mine to time.



Grief and Healing

As I process the upcoming loss of my beautiful Great Dane, Addie,I am led back to the memories of my father’s death. Some would reject that comparison, but my emotions are not dictated by those differences, instead my soul acknowledges that yet another great love in my life is coming to an end.

I am finding that I want to be pragmatic about saying goodbye to Addie; I tell myself things like “She is a ten year old Dane, of course you are at this stage of her life, you knew this was part of the package”, and yet, I am thrilled to find that I have not become such a robot as too believe my own rhetoric.

We train ourselves to cut our losses and to go immediately to “the next thing”; grief, however, does not allow us to do so. There is a saying, and I do not know from where it came, “religion is for those afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for those who have already been there”. I have always loved that saying, but, in that saying is one of the greatest lessons in letting go that I have experienced. Letting go of principles that do not work in my life. While my father was dying I was surrounded by people who were praying for the outcome to change, my 79 year old father was in respiratory failure, and yet I kept hearing people around me say, “God can heal him if he wants”. And as you can probably tell, I did not find solace in that with Dad, and I do not find solace in that with Addie’s upcoming death. When the inevitable comes, as death always will, I don’t want to be left with, “Why didn’t God love me enough to answer my plea”, when I know that death as much as it stinks (thank you Nate Hopping for acknowledging this truth for us) is part of life, and the death of a loved one, a pet, or a dream, is merely part of the cycle, and not a judgement from God.

Letting go is a life long journey, the five stages of death and dying; anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, are the same no matter the loss. Each time that I practice the dance of letting go, the better I become at letting go, and yet the tears are the same, the pain is as intense, and the emotional exhaustion will come.

I have heard many people express “I tend to let go with a clenched fist”; this is usually said with an air of disappointment, but I am proud that I let go so reluctantly, for it is in my reluctance to let go that I reside in my love of life, and all of the gifts that life offers. If this should cause me a longer dance with my emotions then so be it. This is after all my journey, and it is my loss, and although I won’t chase the pain you can bet that I will not run from it.