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Loving Ourselves First


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On another day in another forum, Maylissa wrote,

Thanks for asking about my gal-pal, and yes, that's why I haven't had time to really post of late - too much research and general taking-care of her to do more than read here once in awhile. I've also been reading your e-course on Pet Loss, to prepare myself for the worst, whenever that's going to be . . . Generally, my husband and I have been in full-blown anticipatory grief lately and just trying to cope with all those all-too-familiar emotions on a daily basis . . . Frankly, I've wanted to post under animal loss, but aside from having too little time, it's been hurting so much that I couldn't bring myself to do so anyway...it's enough just to experience everything I feel in any one day.

My dear Maylissa,

Despite all your negative experiences with dysfunctional family members, in our forums you have demonstrated repeatedly your wonderful ability to reach out and support others in their grief. It is a gift -- a legacy perhaps? I cannot help but think that so much of what you've learned about life and love and loss has come from loving and losing your beloved Sabin and now, caring for and anticipating the death of your precious Nissa. Animals have so much to teach us about living, aging and dying, and in the way they experience and accept death as merely another phase in the natural cycle of life. They are so much better with death than we are!

As I was searching in my files for another article this afternoon, I came across this wonderful piece by Teresa Wagner, and I thought immediately of you, and what I've learned about you in all your other postings. I often wonder if you realize what a special person you are, and if you love yourself even half as much as Sabin loved you, and as Nissa loves you now.

Anyway, I couldn't resist sharing this bit of wisdom with you here, as I hope it speaks to you and offers you some comfort, as you face whatever lies ahead. As you read it, think of your beloved Sabin and Nissa, and what they've given to you:

Loving Ourselves First

We are at our most hopeless and despairing in our loss when we’ve not yet learned how to give ourselves or provide for ourselves what it is that we received from another who is now gone. It is true of any loss in life (when children grow up and leave home; when we lose a job and the identity that goes with it; when we lose a significant other who was the only source of unconditional love in our life).

To find the gift in loss, we must first learn what it is that our loved one gave us that we don’t yet give to ourselves — and then find ways to learn somehow to provide this for ourselves — to become more whole, more inter-dependent as opposed to dependent on those we love, for the sake of our own growth and our own relationships. Ask yourself this question: Do you love yourself the way you love your deceased beloved? And do you love yourself the way your deceased beloved loves you?

You may respect yourself for certain roles and certain accomplishments, but do you love yourself — unconditionally — even half as much or as fully as your beloved loves you? Loving another can be so out of balance. You can never ever reconcile the grief of losing a loved one as long as you pine for what that person gave you without even trying to learn to give it to yourself — to love yourself.

The lesson here is that the profound, unconditional love we get from our loved ones need not die with them. We need not be without that love, even after their death. You can learn to love yourself.

We still need to be loved by others — but if we don’t love ourselves first, we need and expect too much from other beings to meet our needs. If we’re dependent only on an external source for love, we set ourselves up for horrible suffering at the time of separation or death. When we learn to love ourselves, we will still experience the pain of loss, but our suffering will change to quiet grace.

— Teresa Wagner, in Legacies of Love. Visit Teresa's beautiful Web site, Animals in Our Hearts

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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Dearest Marty,

As you do so often, you've quickly gotten to the heart of the matter, and with such loving kindness, it makes me shed tears of gratitude for your presence in this world!

I'm aware that this has always been one of my root problems/challenges, and have asked myself the same questions countless times. I remember reading a piece on Teresa's website ( maybe where this one came from? ) where her then-therapist asked her the same question, and at the time, she answered it as I would have, which was in the negative...NO, of course I don't love myself as much as my pet did! I can't tell you the number of times I've felt simply awed that they've loved me as much as I've loved them! It always astounds me that I was given 2 such amazing creatures who taught me how loveable I could be, even with all my flaws. Still does. ( and yes, I realize I shouldn't be "awed", but that's a reflection of my basic, skewed view of myself )

But I'm still only at a rather in-between stage, emotionally, where I can actually feel that same kind of love for myself, about myself. While there's much I really do like and admire about ME, I still don't seem to be able to feel the same emotion for myself as I always do about my kidlets. It's just not as visceral somehow. ( mind you, I can't even think of anyone I know who loves themselves that much, either! ) Much of this reaction, of course, comes from taking cues from others in my life, who obviously haven't loved me anywhere near the way I've loved my furbabies. And that's why, when you or anyone else sees real value in me, it completely warms the cockles of my heart...:wub:...much as it does when my kidlets have loved me. So maybe I now love myself at least half, but not the whole way! :rolleyes: And I'm fully aware, too, that any love I have for myself is certainly not nearly as unconditional as that which I've given my kids. So still, after so many people have treated me so poorly in my life, it always comes as quite a shock when someone sincerely compliments me, as you so often have! ( if I lived where you do, I'd probably be following you around , just like one of our beloved animals! :lol: )

Although on the whole, this is true, I have to tell you that one thing you mentioned actually doesn't ring entirely true for Nissa, though it did for her brother...

"Animals have so much to teach us about living, aging and dying, and in the way they experience and accept death as merely another phase in the natural cycle of life. They are so much better with death than we are!"

I've recently had another communication done with Nissa, where I learned that she plans on fighting to stay with me, her Mom, as hard as I'd be to stay with her, despite her suffering! So 'unfortunately', she seems to have become more like a human than I would have liked to see, for her sake. I know this happens with some of our companions, but I was expecting she'd be a bit more like her brother, who accepted his illness with far more grace than did I...but then, that was him, and they are as individual as we are...how could they not be? This does make me worry about her final stages, as I'm hoping she won't be as afraid as I'm likely to be about my own. But she kept repeating that she didn't want to be w/o her Mommy...much as we who've lost our own mothers feel....it breaks my heart in two, to know she's suffering the same way I am about our impending parting. All I can do is either become thoroughly enlightened in a heck of a hurry, or at least try to reassure her that she'll be able to visit me, even if I can't see her ( as her brother did on many occasions ~ maybe he can show her how? ), even w/o any real experiential knowledge from the other side, on my part. I can only hope she doesn't pine for me once she's not here, as I will be for her. NOTHING can be too perfect for my girl, in her Mommy's eyes!

I have great respect for Teresa ( and actually used her once for a communication ) and I know what she says is true. I just don't really know how to get there in every respect. I have, however, had a feeling that this will be one of the greatest challenges and lessons that my kidlets will have ever taught me and if I can learn that much, everything else will seem like a piece of cake! All in kitten steps....( we should have a 'paw' icon in those smilies )

Thank-you for this, Marty, and if you feel you can expound more on the how-to aspects of this huge undertaking, please feel free!

Edited by Maylissa
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  • 3 months later...

Hi Marty T and Maylissa,

This may be a stupid question but How do you love yourself??? After everything I have gone through I can honestly say I do not love myself...

I may have caused both parents to die secondary issues that is and I just can not figure out how to love myself.... I say this about my parents because with my dad I never learned to drive and so he felt like he had to drive me everywhere.... It was just being very selfish on my part even when he told me he would pay for me to get lessons... SO I figure that I made him get old faster than he actually was... and with my mom I brought up the ideal for going to Las Vegas and If I had been nice and said no just go somewhere in Canada for our vacation than maybe mom would still be alive today... and than there is my dog Chelsea because of me being selfish there is a great chance that she will die by herself without me being around .... so how do you love yourself after all of this????????

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It's not a stupid question, as this is what I'd asked, too! :P All I can tell you though is what little I've learned myself so far about it. Since your concerns also have guilt involved, as do most of our issues about not loving ourselves, I'll answer it from that perspective.

Let me preface this by saying that ALL of us make millions of mistakes in our lifetimes, and we can't do everything perfectly all the time, if ever! But when we feel guilty about choices we now see as less than perfect, or possibly detrimental to us or someone else, all we can do in the NOW is dig deep inside ourselves and try to figure out if what we're 'accusing' ourselves of is truly reasonable, or not.

If we think we've done something wrong, then we need to try to correct it if it's something that's still correctable, or think more carefully about those kinds of choices for now and the future. If it's something in the past that we can't change at all, some self-forgiveness is in order as well as possibley 'atoning' for our deeds by doing something that might make us feel as if we're making amends for our past actions.

If we think, after reflection, that we simply did the best we knew how at the time, then we must work on that self-forgiveness.

On a personal note with your dilemmas, for not driving, I've known quite a few women who never got their licenses, for whatever reasons they had. Whether you had valid reasons at the time, only you can answer that for yourself ( like possibly being too afraid to drive or something )...so you'll have to decide if you were just being selfish, or if you had other reasons that fed into that decision. And if it's nothing that heinous, then you could forgive yourself...and maybe change that now and learn to drive anyway. Perhaps you needed to learn about being more independant at some point in your life? ( there are usually lessons hidden in ANY event )

As for your mom, most of us find it easy to turn our anger and disappointment inward and blame ourselves, or someone else if they're an easier target, for a loved one's death. In this case, your mom had an illness whose outcome couldn't have been predicted, no matter WHERE she was at the time. Speaking rationally, I can't see how you caused her to get ill just by where you went for vacation...it just happened and was beyond your control. You didn't have any intention for her to die, so how could it have been your doing? Cut yourself some slack here, Shelley....you loved your mom and didn't 'murder' her, so forgive yourself for this out-of-your-control event.

Regarding Chelsea, I realize you had to move, etc., but if you're feeling badly about her not having your support and presence, this is something you CAN likely do something about in the here and now. It's possibly as simple as making a point of visiting her more often at your brother's. She's still here and alive, so why not do double-duty ( alleviate your guilt AND support her at the same time ) and make this commitment to the both of you? If there's some other reason you physically can't get to her, that's different, but if not then you might have to figure out what's really stopping you from going to see her. If it's a problem you have with your brother, maybe this is what you need to work on? Or, you could try a little trick I've used many times myself and ask yourself what would be worse?...visiting her and facing whatever thing that's stopping you presently, or NOT visiting her and having your 'worst fear' come true? I find sometimes this helps cut through the layers of questions and doubt much quicker and enables me to do what my inner self knows is better or best, and gives me the strength and commitment to carry through with an action plan that I'm not too comfortable with.....stretches me to go beyond my comfort zone in order to grow and learn.

All these kind of actions and self-reflections enable us to learn to love ourselves more, if not perfectly. ;)

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Hi Maylissa,

Thank you so very much, I am planning to learn to drive and my brother in-law and sister will help pay for some lessons... I am also seeing Chelsea on the weekend of the 19th and I am going to spend as much time with her for the last part of the summer... I realize that I love her and I do not want to forget her ever and I will do what I have to for her to see me.... Thanks again Maylissa you are a truly amazing person Take care Shelley

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hi shelley,

we seem to have a few things in common.

I to have blamed myself for my mums death.If i hadnt had told her orlando was so great she wouldnt have gone and maybe she would still be alive.

truth is she would have got sick no matter where she was,just like your mum i suspect.

Im glad my mum got sick in the usa and noot here in england,her care there was the best and the people were great.

ok its left me feeling that im still waiting for her to come home sometimes

and maybe its made grief a little different to deal with,but i know in my heart if she was going to die anywhere she would have chosen a holiday as she loved them so much.

I wish she had got to enjoy the holiday first but that wasnt to be,she got sick the day after she arrived in the usa,one day i will go back to orlando and take some flowers to the hospital and then i will do all the things she wanted to do in her honour.

try not to feel guilty and when you do remember it is a natural feeling that alot of people have after losing someone that that love.

take care

loads of love


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Hi Amanda,

I do not know how many times I have actually said thank you for what you have said.. You are such a special person and eventhough you are also grieving you seem to put yours a side and help people with what you know how... Take care and God Bless You Amanda.... Shelley


On the good note I wanted to add that she loved Las Vegas so if she had to die than I guess this would have been okay with her because she was a gambler at heart Take care Shelley

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hi shelley,

im not as gifted as most the people on this site,shell ,maylissa and paul s all have so much wonderful advice and they seem to have the right words.where as i just say what i feel and have felt so if i ever sound wierd sorry i just am.

loads of love


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