worth saying again…

This piece of writing about grief that circulates from time to time is worth repeating if only for those who have not seen it, or who have found their circumstances irrevocably changed.

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Please don’t ask me if I am over it yet.

I’ll never get over it.

Please don’t tell me she (he) is in a better place.

She’s (He’s) not here with me.

Please don’t say she (he) isn’t suffering anymore.

I haven’t come to terms with why she (he) had to suffer at all.

Please don’t tell me how you feel.

Unless you’ve lost someone in the same way.

Please don’t ask me if I feel better.

Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.

Please don’t tell me at least you had her (him) for so many years.

What year would you like your loved one to die?

Please don’t tell me God never gives us more than we can bear.

Please just say you are sorry.

Please just say you remember my loved one if you do.

Please mention my loved one’s name.

Please be patient with me when I am sad.

Please just let me be free to be my changing self.

Please just let me cry.

 

These words, I think, illustrate two very important features of bereavement.

First, that it is not something that people recover from.  Rather it is a process of becoming.  Becoming more familiar with a world that has profoundly changed and my moving to a place where the heart-ache is carried more easily and in a way that permits enjoyment of life again.

Secondly, it describes the fact that while people die and are physically absent…our relationship to them does not die.  Children who have died continue to be a part of their families in ways that continue to evolve over our lifetime.   They remain loved ones that families want to talk about, whose stories they will continue to want to share with others and with whom they will maintain a deep and abiding eternal connection.

 

Sadness friend or foe…?

Sadness is one aspect of grief.

The sadness and sorrow after the death of someone central to who we are, is frequently of an overwhelming nature, powerfully uncomfortable and sometimes frightening in intensity.

It is also an emotion that people want to apologise for, thinking it a sign of ‘not moving on’, of weakness and inadequacy.

At its purest, sadness is love in the face of physical absence.

Grieving may be understood as what is experienced as one becomes accustomed to a world forever changed the includes the person who died with a different connection, a non-physical one.

People may die, but our relationships with them do not.

Sadness is, in fact, a useful and necessary emotion.

Leaving aside cultural rules about this emotion, the question may be asked as to what purpose does it serve?…What good does it do?…Why would nature have chosen this emotion?

The emotion of sadness occurs when we have lost someone or something that is important to us, and there is nothing we can do about it.  Sadness turns our attention inward so that we can reflect and think.  It allows a close examination of everything…which is part of what is necessary to rebuild life around the pain of loss.

Sadness slows us down; it slows down our biological systems contributing to withdrawing of attention from the outside world to our inner world.

Moreover, when we are sad, we look sad.  Our face and body language signal to those around us that we may need help, care and compassionate understanding.

We are hard-wired to respond to each other in this way.  We are biologically constructed to respond with care and concern when we see others suffering.

While many of us have been conditioned to perceive sadness as a negative emotion, it is a necessary emotion and has its usefulness and wisdom.

We are expected to be in control of our emotions and while it is important to learn how to ‘dose” ourselves when faced with intense emotions i,e. Get a break from them; it is important not to suppress them, deny or avoid them,

We, in our culture, tend to overvalue reason, logic and the capacity to be rational.  Conversely, the language of the heart tends to be undervalued.

We search and are encouraged to seek quick remedy, relief and recovery.  We don’t like to be vulnerable, out of control.  We tend to keep our intense emotions secret and unseen and may even feel ashamed of them.

We are taught that to give too much room to intense emotions may be a sign of weakness or breakdown.

We turn away rather than toward them because of cultural conditioning and because they can also be frightening.

Grieving people sometimes fear that they will be overwhelmed by emotions like passionate sadness forever.  They may also feel as if they are going crazy because of the intensity and unpredictability of intense sadness.

Our language is full of advice such as ‘get a hold of your self’, ‘get a grip’, ‘stay in control’ amongst many others.

The fear is that overwhelming emotion may be destructive.

We are sometimes encouraged to take medication that will make us feel better.  The focus is on getting rid of strong emotions rather than learning from them.  It may be difficult to believe that having strong, intense emotions acknowledged, listened and attended to, in fact, helps them diminish.

Sadness and sorrow are neither positive nor negative in themselves …it is the way we think about them that is positive or negative.  How we think about things affects how problematic they may become.

Profound and passionate sadness is not a bad thing.  It is the most normal emotion imaginable following the death of a child.  While at the beginning that sadness may fill every inch of your being, it does not stay the same shape and colour for the rest of time.

Feeling emotional pain is not a sign of being sick…it is a sign of having loved deeply.  It is the other side of love and as noted previously plays an important role in rebuilding life around the pain of loss.  It allows an inward reflection on such questions as  ‘Who am I now?’, ‘How am I different?’, ‘What do I need?’, etc. and it acts as a signal to the world around that compassionate care is required.  This care includes the time and space to, for a while, withdraw from our normal concerns.

In spending time with intense and profound emotion, it is possible to discover or renew the capacity for gratitude, joy, faith, courage and compassion.

Healing is a journey through pain not a departure from it.

The purpose of intense emotion is not to make us miserable forever but to help us heal.

_lonely_mindful_nature_person_relaxing_repose_sitting_solitary_sun_thinking_thoughtful_woman
with special thanks to my social work colleague Vera Russell

Supporting Grieving Adolescents

fantastic-wallpaper-with-butterflieMany bereaved families may have surviving adolescent children who are mourning the loss of their brother or sister.

This is often new territory both for the teenager and also for the parents trying to work out our best to care for them especially when they are feeling so emotionally depleted.

Some things to think about:

1. Grief is not always visible

Grief is not just the outward display of emotion. It is also the thoughts and behaviours that we experience in response to the death of someone we love.
As adolescents are in the process of becoming more independent of their parents and other important adults, they may at times feel reluctant to show feelings or talk about their thoughts as it can reinforce a sense of dependence and vulnerability. They may also choose to inhibit some of their thoughts and feelings out of a desire to protect their families. They may also prefer to share their experiences with their peer group.

Strategy: Be available

It is when we are listened to and heard is when we feel most understood. Create a home environment where open communication is encouraged. Convey to them that it is okay to have the thoughts and feelings that they may have and that you will be available should they decide to let you know what is going on with them.
As with adults, at the beginning of grief, it is sometimes very difficult to communicate what we are thinking and feeling…it is no less difficult for adolescents who have less life experience than adults and who, when they are feeling vulnerable may find it difficult to put things into words.

2. Don’t try to “fix” the pain associated with grief

It is difficult and uncomfortable for parents to witness the pain of their children. They usually want life to be okay for their children and are pained by what they see and uncomfortable about the helplessness it can create in them. This means that we may want to take away or fix the pain of those we love. This may take the form of avoiding conversation about the person who has died or distracting them from thinking or feeling their pain. While this may be momentarily effective, it can result in the adolescent hiding their grief or withdrawing or expressing their grief in destructive ways.

Strategy: Talk about the loss

Invite the adolescent to talk about the person who died. Encourage questions. Should the teenager not want to talk, respect this. Offer others that they may speak with about their feelings.
Always answer questions honestly and clearly. If you do not know the answer to something, say so. Share your memories, thoughts, beliefs and don’t expect that your teenager will always see things as you do.

3) Understand that grief does not proceed in orderly predictable stages.

Young people grieve in doses. Like with adults, their grief is more likely to go in waves. Sometimes adolescents may have outbursts of grief after a period when they have seemed perfectly okay. Know that this is normal. Their grief like yours, may at times seem unpredictable. They are no better at grieving or making sense of the world than adults. The difference is that they may seem unaffected for periods of time and a burst of emotion can catch parents unawares.

Strategy: Allow for adjustment

Because grief does not proceed in an orderly fashion, teenagers need to be allowed leeway as they adjust to a life forever changed. Providing a secure, consistent environment with predictable routines is important. This helps to generate a renewed feeling of safety and security. Be aware of any danger signs such as violence, drug and alcohol abuse, risk-taking behaviour or dramatic changes in personality. Seek help when necessary.

4) Model Healthy Grief

Like all of us, adolescents learn from those around them. They will pick up implicit and explicit messages from those around them on how to grieve. This is how they think they should behave or are expected to behave. They take their cues from important grown-ups in their lives (even if they do not look like they are paying attention).

Strategy: Mourn together

Be aware of the messages that they may be receiving from those around them about how to grieve and offer alternatives when appropriate.
The more adolescents observe healthy communication and the appropriate expression of the many feelings associated with loss, the more likely they may understand, accept and manage the breadth of emotions and thoughts they may have.

Try as much as possible to consider what things might look like from their perspective. Give thought to the closeness of the relationship your teenager shared with their brother or sister. Acknowledge the deep loss it is for them too.

When you can, in the midst of your grief, set aside time, attention and availability for the adolescent. That does not necessarily mean talking about the death but maybe just time spent together doing something that is fun and thereby communicating that they matter and they too are important.

Finally, remember that this is new for all of you and that there will be some trial and error as families become better able to take care of each other.

A mother’s tale of growth after the death of her son…

The below writing is a heartfelt story from a mother who has buried her child; I include her story in its entirety simply because her message is so very important.  Apart from some grammatical errors, nothing has been changed.

 

A Story from Elise and her beloved son Luke who now resides in the realm of spirit.

I wrote the following FB post a few months after two incredible experiences that shifted my grief journey into a much lighter, grateful, and peaceful place.   Last August I did a type of grief therapy called Repair & Reattachment Grief Therapy with Rochelle Wright, she wrote a book about it with Craig Hogan.   (I know, without a doubt. I was lead to her by my Luke, but that is a whole other story); it re-framed all of the terrible memories of my son’s last hours on earth.   The bad memories are completely gone and replaced with amazing new memories of me with my boy.

Then only a month later, I attended the Afterlife Research and Education Symposium (again, a ton of signs lead me there including Rochelle asking to talk about Luke and me in her presentation at the conference).   Both the therapy and the conference were the first time I had travelled anywhere since Luke passed.   I had a ton of anxiety about travelling and leaving my young son and while it had been over 2.5 years and I almost cancelled both trips right before, but I was completely pushed to go by Luke/Spirit.

It turned out to be completely life-changing for me. I think learning all we can about the afterlife and becoming truly grateful for our earth experiences can shift us into a life filled with supernatural miracles instead of just human suffering. May you find comfort if you choose to read further. I am so thankful for my sweet, beautiful boy who was my teacher then and continues to be now. ❤️

 

I have been mulling some things over the past couple months and thought I would write it out hoping it may help someone else. I have had quite an intense shift in my perspective which has made my life and my grief journey so much better. In mid-September, I attended the Afterlife Research and Education Symposium in Scottsdale, Arizona.

 

For the first time, I was surrounded by people (a lot of them…over 500) who believe that our deceased loved ones still exist and are interacting with us with signs and messages of love.   Yes, they have shed their physical bodies, but their Spirits are alive and well on “the other side.” Spiritual signs are not new to me.   I experience so many spiritual communications between myself with my boy Luke in my daily life.

 

I kind of feel like a “weirdo” for thinking this which is quite odd to me because many people and most religions do believe in life after death but seem not to have much to say about the people who have transitioned over. It was very comforting for me to be in a place where I felt like I belonged and where the atmosphere radiated loving energy.

Most of the people at this conference had lost someone incredibly important to them which lead them to seek out learning more about the afterlife, and I met several sweet grieving mothers while there.   One conversation, in particular, did get me thinking because I was a bit surprised at what I said.   I sat down about 10 minutes early before the presentations on Saturday afternoon began.  Another young woman sitting next to me struck up a conversation. She asked me what brought me to the conference and I told her that my oldest son was in Spirit and of course her immediate reaction was sadness and response of “I am so sorry.”

I nodded and said thank you and then shocked myself by saying “Actually I am not sorry and let me explain why.” This writing may come out clumsy, so I apologize in advance but know it is all from my heart.   I will no longer say I am sorry about my beautiful boy Luke anymore and I will not let the moment of his physical death overshadow the amazing 5+ years he had on earth and the beautiful eternity he is experiencing now.

He was, and still is, my biggest blessing and I am not sorry about that at all. His life and “death” catapulted me into intense learning, growth, and transformation and I am not sorry about that. I had learned so much and am still learning and, even more important, yearn to learn which wasn’t even a concept in my life when Luke was still here physically.

The millions of beautiful moments I had with him while he was here on earth and the connection we continue to have completely trumped the moment of his physical death.

Yes, I still feel intense sadness that I do not get to talk with him and hold him and watch him grow up here on earth. I will never deny my longing to have him physically here, but my gratitude that he was mine in the first place and is mine forever makes it all worthwhile.  I have realized that I never fully comprehended what being thankful meant before.

I am so incredibly thankful for my beautiful sweet boy and all that he has taught me and continued to teach me. I am so thankful he chose me to be his Mama, and he gave me the gift of telling me that fact a week before his unexpected passing.   I am so blessed with such a special little boy with a supernatural understanding of Heaven, to the point where I know for a fact he came from Heaven and then went back again.

He was pure love and joy in human form, and his amazing soul still can shine his light down on me which gives me the energy to keep going. Yes, he left his earthly life earlier than what I would have liked, but I know God called him Home because his work here completed and that it is only because of him (in both physical presence and his spirit presence) that I am growing into the person I am now.

I may not yet know what I am here to accomplish, but I do know that it will be revealed in time and that Luke is with me every step of the way.   I still feel his incredible love and am surrounded by it and reminded of it daily. His signs of love reaffirm his existence, and I am so lucky that I know without a doubt that I will be with my boy again one day.

I used to wish for that day to come soon but I no longer do. I used to think that there was absolutely no way I could survive “x” number of years without my Luke but now know after surviving almost three years now and learning all that I have, that I can survive and WILL SURVIVE because my soul knows I still have work to do and lessons to learn.

I am letting my life unfold instead of trying to control everything as I did in the past. I know I will be lead to the places I need to go and to the people I need to meet for my continued healing and the healing of others. I am keeping myself open to whatever crosses my path and know that even when “bad” things happen, blessings can still abound.

I will always try to find the bit of good in what seems bad and to see the potential for growth in everything that occurs. Everyone has their journey and lessons to learn, and I am grateful to be able to share with you all that I have learned so far.

Sending blessings and love out to Facebook land today!

 

 

 

 

 

http://afterlifeinstitute.org/

#LovefromLuke
#ShiningLightParent
#StillRightHere

Photo by Lora Denton Photography ~ Sept. 2017

Helping Parents Heal…

Australia and New Zealand Parents

Helping Parents Heal Inaugural Online Meeting for Parents

Helping Parents Heal is a wonderful organisation designed to allow parents whose children have transitioned to support each other. Unlike many bereavement support organisations, members share knowledge about signs, after death contacts, mediums and other methods of direct communication with their children. HPH meetings are uplifting, inspiring and enlightening.

When: 19th December

Where: Online Zoom – by putting this link into your browser Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/6123708172

Or email karynjarvie@ozemail.com.au

When:

4.30 Perth
6.00 pm Darwin
6.30 pm Brisbane
7.00 pm Adelaide
7.30 pm Hobart
7.30 pm Melbourne
7.30 pm Sydney
9.30 pm Christchurch
9.30 pm Wellington

Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars across mobile, desktop, and room systems. Zoom Rooms is the original software-based conference…
ZOOM.US

COMMENTARY: BATTLE FOR THE MIND


 

Victor Zammit is the author of the Friday Report, a weekly report that has been printed every Friday for the past 18 years.  This weeks report can be found at this link.            http://victorzammit.com/November24th2017

 

Over the last five years we have seen the closed minded skeptics getting fewer and fewer, while orthodox religions are also losing numerical support.

Collectively we are going through an expansion of the mind unseen in human history. Fewer people are accepting traditional creation stories and religious beliefs. At the same time they are refusing to accept the materialist explanation that everything in the universe came by chance. 

Fundamentalists and other traditional religious believers blame the reduction in the number of their followers on the evils of materialism. However people are saying that they are not finding traditional religious information convincing and relevant.

This is why objective, repeatable afterlife research is more important than ever. People are opening their minds, seeking a new understanding of who we are, and our place in the universe. People are looking for the TRUTH and the TRUTH about the afterlife sets us free from fear of death and despair about life.

Thinking the season differently…

You gather round the table.  A time to celebrate they say.
But you are feeling naught but sadness on this day.
The family’s not the same this year as holidays gone by.
“How can I be happy?  To smile would be a lie.”
Those you love may not be seen, but can you feel them in your heart?
That stirring when you think of them—that’s the place to start.
“It’s not the same,” you say, and here that may seem true.
But in spirit, trust us, they stand right next to you.
What makes a family is the bond you share.
That bond exists whether they are here or there.
Feel sorry if you must, but your sorrow is in vain.
Your loved ones are not gone when in your heart they do remain.
“Connected at the heart” is more than just a phrase.
It’s a link that bonds you for all days.
Love never dies. Love is that binding link.
Those who’ve passed are far closer than you think.
Give thanks for life.  Give thanks for love,
As your loved ones watch you from beside you and above.

Suzanne Giesemann

fantastic-wallpaper-with-butterflie

Gratitude…

Today I have a short story for you…

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which read, “I am blind, please help.”

There were only a few coins in the hat – spare change from folks as they hurried past.

A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words.

Then he put the sign back in the boy’s hand so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy.

That afternoon, the man who had changed the sign returned to see how things were.

The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”

The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.” I wrote, “Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.”

Both signs spoke the truth. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind, while the second sign conveyed to everyone walking by how grateful they should be to see…


When your life seems full of troubles, it seems difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude, doesn’t it? All we see are our problems, like a blackened storm cloud casting a dark shadow over our lives.

And the times when everything just seems to be going smoothly? We often take these precious moments for granted too, don’t we? Caught up in the bliss, comfort, and familiarity of it all, we can simply forget to be thankful.

So what, then, is gratitude?

Simply put, gratitude is a habit. It’s a way of looking at the world and all the good things in it with a feeling of appreciation, regardless of whether or not your current situation is to your liking.

Gratitude is a heart-centered approach to being at peace with yourself and with all you have. When you practice this feeling of gratitude, it attracts even MORE things into your life for which to be grateful.

Go ahead, try it out right now. What or who do you have in your life to be thankful for? 🙂

 

 

 

 

Nick Ortner

story of a little beetle…

Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads lived a little water beetle in a community of other water beetles.  They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond.

Once in a while though, sadness came into their community when one of the little beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again.  They knew when this happened because their friend was dead, gone not to be seen by them again.

Then, one day, the little beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb the stem of the lily pad. However, he was determined that he would come back and he would not leave forever.  He would come back and tell his friends what he had found at the top of the lily stem.

When he reached the top and climbed out of the water and onto the surface of the lily pad, he felt so tired and exhausted, so he decided to to have a little rest before he returned to his community.  The sun felt so warm that he soon drifted off to sleep.

As he slept, his body began to change so that when he woke up, he had turned into a beautiful slender blue tailed dragonfly with beautiful wings designed to fly.

 

dragonfly

And fly he did!  As he soared and saw the beauty of a world that was so new to him and far superior to the one under the water he had known he felt exhilarated with his new learning.

But he remembered his promise to his friends and soon his thoughts drifted to how sad they would be, thinking that now he was dead.  He wanted to go back and tell them, that this world was so much more beautiful with splendid new things to do but most of all he wanted to explain to them how much more alive now he felt, more than he had ever felt before.

But as much as he tried his new body would not let him go down under the lily pad.  He tried and tried, but he could not go down into the water.  At last, he understood.   Their time would come too when they would climb the lily stem and know what he now knew.  His life as a beetle had been fulfilled it had not ended, he did not end.  For awhile he was a little sad that he could not tell his friends to not be afraid.

He understood too that one day they would know this beautiful new world and that they would join him when the time was right.  At last, he took one more look into the water and with a joyful beat of his heart he raised his wings and flew joyously off to join all those who had gone before him into the new life.

Author unknown

The Spiritual Nature of Animals

ANIMAS: An excerpt from THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF ANIMALS by Karlene Stange, DVM

Author Karlene Stange’s spiritual journey began during her work as an ambulatory veterinarian, driving her pickup truck through southwestern Colorado, attending to animals in need of medical care. She has experienced the challenges, sorrows, and joys of working with creatures great and small, and she feels a powerful kinship with these beautiful beings beyond flesh and fur and feathers. Her book, The Spiritual Nature of Animals: A Country Vet Explores the Wisdom, Compassion, and Souls of Animals, chronicles her spiritual path working with animals, through the lenses of various teachings of religious and cultural traditions, as well as her own encounters with the magnificent Rocky Mountain terrain and the quirky characters — both animal and human — who inhabit it.

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from The Spiritual Nature of Animals, in which Dr. Stange shares how her spiritual journey working with animals began.

 

I set out to understand the spiritual nature of animals, and in so doing, I discovered my own. Creatures great and small dragged me down a rabbit hole and through sacred tunnels into a world of dragons, shamans, gurus, lamas, monks, nuns, demons, priests, rabbis, preachers, scientists, clairvoyants, channels, mystics, animal communicators, and spiritual teachers. Those adepts schooled me and gave me refuge from the drama and trauma overburdening me. They introduced me to the anima — what Jungian psychology refers to as the animating principle present in all living beings.

Anima is the Latin root of the word animal. It means soul, breath, and life. Veterinarians share a personal relationship with the anima; we watch it drain from a body only to meet it again as a newborn foal or pup. Yet veterinary education rarely mentions it. We learn detailed information about bones, blood, and the other physical components, but little is said of the nonphysical aspect — the animas of animals. I now believe it is the most important part.

Firemen do not enter burning buildings or ascend to the tops of tall trees to grab a hunk of meat known as a “cat.” They rescue a beloved family member, a companion. The incorporeal light in an animal’s eyes reaches into our hearts. It touches us more deeply than any physical thing. We humans have the capacity to connect with the spiritual nature of animals; it makes us happy.

I wanted to be an animal doctor before I knew the word veterinarian. As a young girl in Wisconsin, I remember attending a stallion showing. The handler enumerated the attributes of the handsome gray Arabian stud as I stared at a gray-haired man in the audience. He appeared humble and placid and wore a vest monogrammed with the veterinary emblem. I learned that he was the local large-animal veterinarian. Although I did not know him, something about his wise yet nonjudgmental demeanor attracted me, and I longed to be like him. I had yet to learn how the fires of veterinary practice would burn and melt me before forging me into the person I aspired to become.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the suicide rate for veterinarians is four times higher than the national average. This may be due in part to the gory wounds and difficult procedures, the death and euthanasia, and the stress of long hours treating emergencies, but it may also be because of something I call “compassion overwhelm.” We care too much. We tend to be compulsive overachievers who sacrifice our lives for the job, as did the cattle practitioner I read about once in the AVMA obituaries who drowned trying to save a calf stuck in a muddy pond. Or perhaps suicide appeals to us because of our familiarity with death.

No matter the reasons, my experience convinces me that an understanding of the spiritual nature of animals benefits the mental and emotional health of veterinarians and animal-loving people who anguish over the suffering of pets and wildlife. Furthermore, veterinary clients may harbor strong religious beliefs that influence their decisions, and we must show them respect and speak to them with wisdom. I hope the insights shared here provide comfort to those who live with, tend to, and love animals. Perhaps, once they learn of their beneficial qualities, some may even come to see and appreciate the simple beauty of maggots and other parts of nature we often abhor.

My goal, then, is to explore the world’s religious, spiritual, philosophical, and scientific teachings about the nonphysical makeup of animals for the highest good of animal care, the human-animal bond, and the well-being of all concerned.

Each chapter explores a different religious belief system and offers three main approaches to the material. First, each chapter begins with a description of that belief system. In order for the reader to fully comprehend the tenets of Hinduism, Judaism, shamanism, and so on, the vocabulary must first be defined. Therefore, each chapter includes some history and definitions followed by an investigation into the religion’s beliefs regarding animals. Then, throughout, I provide stories from my veterinary practice, offering further illustration of the concepts for contemplation. The third element explores the unfolding of my own spiritual growth — a concept I learned in the process — and how it changed me.

The struggle inside me first started in the 1990s and early 2000s when I practiced large- and small-animal ambulatory medicine out of a pickup truck in a rural mountain community in southwestern Colorado. Horses, llamas, alpacas, dogs, and cats were my primary patients, along with other wild and domestic flying, swimming, and crawling creatures. I drove day and night to attend to animals in beautiful places around Durango, Colorado, where the Animas River carves the landscape.

The majority of my time spent researching spiritual teachings took place on the job in a pickup truck where the only way to learn was from audiotapes. Time off included further seeking by reading, praying, attending church services, meditating, chanting, going on a vision quest, attending retreats with a Tibetan lama and Buddhist nuns, questioning psychics and shamans, pursuing an animal communication apprenticeship, and conducting interviews with experts in numerous fields of spirituality.

During this period, I drove an average of a hundred miles or more a day. Fortunately, the scenery made that part of the job a pleasure, although the dirt routes on winding, mountainous terrain were often treacherous. The views of snow-covered peaks and enchanted valleys, tall ponderosa forests, and aspen groves soothed my stressed mind. Guardian angels held the wheel as I watched a bald eagle circling above or stared at an osprey sitting on a snag next to the Animas River. The occasional coyote made me giggle as he scooted across a field, looking over his shoulder as though trouble were on his tail. A bobcat, a bachelor band of elk, or a family of deer crossing the road at times caused me to hit the brakes. Drives to ranches were adventures into fantasylands of hidden canyons and mysterious ravines where cell phone service was lost. A tourist once told me, “You live in a postcard.” To which I replied, “And I drive each day in the mud, dust, and snow that keep everyone else from living here.”

My home is in La Plata County, a community full of colorful characters: ranchers whose families have lived here for generations, Native Americans, mountain hermits, Hispanics, and nonlocal people who moved to the country from cities. The stories I share about these people are true; at least, this is the truth as I remember it. Only the names of people, animals, and some places have been changed to protect privacy. One group of folks who live here, not found in cities, are cattlemen who breed livestock in small family-run operations. Their relationship with the animals they raise for income is often misunderstood. Humans and beasts depend on one another; one does not survive without the other. The rural life itself is foreign to many. The jobs of the mobile large-animal doctor intertwines with the country ranch life, and both involve hard physical work caring for beasts that can be dangerous. The veterinary workforce has evolved to focus more on pets in cities, and a shortage of rural veterinarians creates challenges for folks living in the country.

 

As a child, Karlene Stange, DVM, author of The Spiritual Nature of Animals, wanted to be an “animal doctor” before she knew the word “veterinarian.” Today she incorporates acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and nutritional therapy into her Rocky Mountain practice. She often speaks at conferences and lives in Durango, Colorado. You can find out more about her work at www.animasanimals.com.

Excerpted from the book The Spiritual Nature of Animals. Copyright © 2017 by Karlene Stange.