Grief & savoring - so much heart!

grief savoring Aug 08, 2023

I'm entering a grief period. Knowing this in advance is weird, but I know it's coming. My 12.5yo Berner is fading, and our days together are finite, so I know what awaits.




This story is NOT meant to have you grabbing all the tissues. No! This is about "savoring," a wonderful concept introduced to me by my coach, Lizzie (yes, I have a coach, too), and The Life Feast. 


Savoring is the conscious act of reliving - and recommitting to memory - everything about an event or moment. Reliving a great run, replaying a fabulous hike. We savor the memory by patiently sitting with all the details - especially the tiny ones - and take our time traveling back to the moments.


A great way to start this habit is to look at your smartphone's camera roll. Choose a photo that brings you joy. As you look at that photo, replay the whole day and everything surrounding the memory. Try to add as many senses as you can - did the place have a smell? Can you feel your dog's fur? What sounds were in the environment?


Take your time and fully relive the memory, feeling all the emotions from that day. Truly savor every last little detail. You should be smiling and feeling like it just happened.


If you've done coaching with me, you might also recognize this practice as "backward visualization," as it's a great building block to developing a visualization practice. The way we can look back with such detail is how we want to visualize when we look forward. Plus, sitting with these memories for a long time helps to build our ability to focus and stay in the present (kinda like meditation!). So savoring has all sorts of awesome benefits!


Grief & savoring

So in my "pre-grief" mode, I'm doing a LOT of savoring! I'm allowing myself to look back and wallow in nostalgia for a life beautifully lived. Regrets have no place in my savoring, only joy and pride, and silliness, and love, and gratitude. So much gratitude.


We can do the same thing when we have to release a goal we really, really, really, really wanted. I often tell my coaching clients and members that letting go of a goal is a form of grief - we mourn the loss - and the feelings are all too real. When we are forced to let go of goals due to factors outside our control, it absolutely evokes grief.


What if, when this happens, we could turn to savoring? Not as a way of bypassing our heavy emotions, but as a way of celebrating? What if we could open our phone and remember all the great things our dog has done and how they bring joy to our lives outside the ring? What a fantastic way to honor our dogs while grieving the loss.


In our careers as dog handlers, we will let go of many goals and dreams. We will spay a bitch we wanted to breed, or be forced to change sports because our dog can't play it. There will be a LOT of "plan Bs" (and Cs, Ds, etc.) on our path. We should both grieve the loss AND savor the moments. It's all the messy and emotional part of dog sports that we have signed up for!

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