Posted on Aug 09, 2023
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
As Jay and I are now moving through our own grief, I’m noticing the many different stages of sorrow. When Magic first passed away, the grief was so heavy in my body that it was hard to even stay standing.
I tried walking the dogs and bringing Lewis his morning bottle, and my usual 10-minute walk took me forever. I held on to the railing on the stairs that led from the upper barnyard to the lower half of our property, afraid of falling. After I gave Lewis his bottle, I was wondering how I would get back up the hill to the house.
Suddenly, I felt Whisper on one side of me and Magic on the other, as if they were holding me up. I felt an exhilarating rush of energy as they ushered me along the perimeter of the property and up the steep slope all the way back to my house. More proof that our beloveds are always with us!
That first night my close friends and family took care of me, serving me dinner, cleaning up, and keeping me company. I kept feeling the urge to get up and help, but the part of me that was in pain sat me back down each time. It was uncomfortable to receive, and a great opportunity to practice.
The next day, I was going to take the day off, but instead ventured out to my office where I could connect with staff and talk about Magic. Sharing stories about him and shedding tears together really helped me. I posted Magic’s passing on my social media and reading the comments from people around the world who had loved him too served as a salve on my broken heart. Talking about him and hearing from so many who were grieving with me didn’t open the wound, it helped to scab it over.
My mood over the next few days kept changing. Sometimes I was so sad from seeing an unexpected video or picture of Magic, and other times I felt angry. I wasn’t angry at one specific thing or thought, I just felt anger in my body, and I was conscious of feeling irritated. Because I was aware of it, I preempted each conversation letting the person know that I was grieving, angry, and having a hard time and that they should not take anything I say or do personally. Taking myself seriously, not judging or trying to change myself, but rather acknowledging what I was going through aloud to others felt good. Being authentic, transparent, and practicing self-care was my lifeline.
In the Jewish tradition, mourners practice something called “shiva,” which is a week of mourning, receiving friends to visit with food, and telling stories of the departed. I realized that I had created my own version of shiva where I spent time with those who knew and loved Magic, nurtured me with food and conversation, and allowed me to focus on my memories, my pain, and my process through grief.
Jay and I raised Magic from when he was only seven months old and want to feel the grief until we can find our way to gratitude. We anticipate months of ups and downs but are thankful for the loving support of friends, family, volunteers, staff, and you surrounding us with everything that we need to get through it.