My first blog offering for 2015 is going to be a rather unprofessional affair, based not on what I’ve been achieving via my work life, but on my own personal loss.
For the last eight years of my life – so pretty much the whole time I’ve been working for myself, and working largely from home - I have had the wonderful companionship, joy and affection of my most beloved dog Tess.
She decided to depart this world in the first week of January this year, leaving me desolate, stricken with grief and so terribly afraid.
Writing is a hugely cathartic thing so the reason in penning this blog is for me as much as for anyone reading this and to pay tribute to Tess, who was so much a part of me, everything I did and who I have become.
Tess was a joyous individual – always happy, full of boundless amounts of energy, adoring of affection, and in turn comforting, kind and hilariously funny. For eight years I looked after her, and she looked after me, and anyone who worked with me, or socialised with me, all got used to the idea pretty quickly that wherever Liz went, then so did Tess.
I have always been a driven individual, which in the earlier part of my life, meant I was always dissatisfied with what I was doing and looking for the next thing.
Tess taught me about the simple things in life – walking on a beautiful day, looking down rabbit holes, lying by the fire and just being content in the moment and totally at rest.
She made me less materialistic and happier to be outside, she made me love to be at home and more content in my own company and she taught me that just sitting and staring is a perfectly acceptable and fulfilling way to spend time.
Having largely spent the last eight years alone, her importance in my life was more that of a beloved child than ‘just a dog’ and her death has been like a physical pain to me – shocking, debilitating and draining me of all my energy and joy in the world.
To get through it, I have tried to be brave, a quality I admire so much in others, and although failing shockingly at times, taking an example from others I know, or have known, has been of great inspiration.
My family have, as always, provided an unbelievable strength and constancy, my friends have been unswerving in their loyalty and patience, and Barrie, my partner, who I admire so much in all things, has had to bear the brunt of my suffering and yet been infinitely kind and never once told me to shut up or pull myself together.
I have also read a lot about grief, which is so much part of life, and have found strength in the words of others. CS Lewis articulated the feeling that grief is like fear. And for me this has struck a particular resonance. Known as a happy and ‘sorted’ individual, in the last few weeks I have wavered between sadness, insecurity, terrible anger at the world, a crippling inability to do anything and terror in facing the world and everyday life without the stabling and comforting influence of my dog.
Some may find it trivial, and almost comical, to be so brought down by the death of a mere animal but I make no apologies for this blog. My great friend Jilly Cooper, known publicly for her huge affection for animals, has been a great comfort to me and said to me just after it happened that only people who can love so deeply, can in turn suffer such a deep sense of loss.
So as I pick myself off the floor and look towards the future and a happy life without Tess, I leave you with this.
Do not stand at my grave and weepI am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Liz Ampairee, January 2015