Animals are Superheroes

There are moments that, once they happen, completely leave our brains forever. Then, there are moments that stick in our memories like my cat’s fur on my clothes after a cuddling session. The moment, or rather the seconds, that it took for me to hear the words, “She’s gone” are sticky seconds in my brain. All of the things you hear ring true about these types of seconds- time slowed almost to a halt, all I could sense around me was my heartbeat and my face flooded with pain. My mom was gone, and I could do nothing.

Since those two words grazed my ears, reality has been a turbulent storm of wind gusts pushing me up, hail stones pelting me down and gushing downpours of tears. There are lifeboats that come now and then in the form of friends, family doing their best to comfort you and rescue you from the inevitable grief that you have to walk through, alone. But the fact remains, you are alone in this new undertaking you must carry- called grief. Unless you are with animals.

The thing about someone close to you dying is that you get to see who people in your life are. The people who have truly experienced loss and darkness are very apparent. They say just the right thing. They give you just the right amount of space. They offer their presence in just the right ways. The people who haven’t experienced exceptional loss who love you hard, but don’t know how to show you that. The people who are impatient with grief and expect you to return to exactly who you were. You must teach people how to interact with you after a loss- on top of the grief undertaking, you are now a coach for your community in how to navigate—> you.

And then there’s animals. Their presence, their attunement to your exact feelings and needs, their ability to just be- offers and teaches so much, especially in the heaviest moments of the grief process. The day I decided to look at my mom’s last texts to me was a supercell day. I walked into my house from my car and collapsed on the floor, heaving so hard between sobs I couldn’t remember how to take in oxygen. My cats found me and surrounded me. One of them rubbing against me, the other one rolling on the floor showing me his belly, inevitably getting me to smile. Then they just sat by me, until I was ready to move through the rest of my day. They needed their dinner and that need was stronger than my need to be on the floor. They got me up and moving. After feeding them I gazed absentmindedly out of my kitchen window, continuing to be lost in grief- until a black-capped chickadee landed on the birdfeeder in front of me. Delicately pecking at the seeds and fluffing his feathers- tiny feet holding his adorably plump body steady on the feeder. Another smile; another step forward through the grief.

Since that day, I’ve been more aware of the presence of the animals around me and their effortless healing powers. In tune and present with their whole environment, and magically, with my internal environment. Their non-judgemental, gentle input, comforting presence and basic needs of me alongside their almost unbearably endearing qualities has allowed me to stay steady in this storm of grief I have to walk through everyday. They have also informed my direction for my future career path as a counselor. Counselors get the benefit of helpfully using their own experiences, like loss, in their work, and this experience is particularly poignant for me in my direction. I plan to get my certification in animal assisted therapy, to not only surround myself with the healing presence and power of animals, but inviting them to assist in the healing of future clients and allow them to be my assistants as the teachers of growth, regulation and healing. They saved me like no one else possibly could and I will forever be grounded and grateful for these superheroes.