Changing “Hop” Into Hope: Staying Present To Grief

Subject: Athena.
Location: Blue Ridge, Georgia & West Florida, 2012-2013.
Medium: Digital, Nikon D300

Some requests come at difficult times and as a result, seem easy to dismiss. Artist, Bernadette Smith+ of Muse Fusions asked me to do a “blog hop” with her just a couple of weeks ago. This would involve writing a post in which I would answer four questions about my writing. It would also involve finding other bloggers to participate in sharing their answers and also highlighting links to their sites on my post (hence the name, “blog hop”).

However, this request came on the cusp of a major personal loss for me – the passing of my sweet 12 year-old canine, Athena – constant companion and my always available photographic subject.  I was not up for writing at all. In fact, I was dreading it.

Yet, I was conflicted. I say that I put myself and my creative responses to life “out there”. I had in fact, committed to this openness when I created the tagline, “the Additional f-Stop”.

So, I decided to use the loss of my Athena to answer some of the blog hop questions and to connect with Bernadette’s post, Writers Blog Hop Their Happy. In this way, I am choosing to change my dread of “hop” into hope.

Here are the four blog hop questions and my answers. They relate to using writing to practice mindfulness during a state of loss.

How does my writing process work?

These last few days, my writing has been sparse because frankly, I haven’t felt like writing. Usually though, it’s simple. I write in a journal every day after my morning meditation. I sit in my big chair, feet propped up on an ottoman, perched with a good cup of coffee. Until recently, my dog would lay across from me, her belly full, content to sleep after her morning rituals while I would write.

I also write on my iMac when I am ready to blog. I don’t censor and I don’t plan. I just express – and when writing with a pen, this slows the process, allowing for inspiration. My writing on this site is a bit different from writing in a journal in that this site’s posts have a communal purpose.

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I don’t know a lot of writers who are also scanners and I don’t know a lot of people who would want to use writing to understand their grief and convert it into something freeing. But I’ve been mostly around photographers, not writers. So if there are any writers out there who want to connect, please do so!

Why do I write what I do?

I write for the same reason I make photographs or do anything else artistic.  I write to share my creative experiences with the world and hopefully, inspire others. To keep these experiences enclosed inside me is to wilt away personally.

I write about Athena today and the experience of writing through the grief, but I also write today to share my choice, which is the commitment to stay very close and present with this grief, to not distract myself from it.

Oh, I want to avoid it. I want to intellectualize it, resist it, get my mind busy with other things. I want to dismiss it (I hear old voices in my head from my past saying, “it’s just a dog, get back to work“).  This is my reflex, but definitely NOT in line with MY beliefs about animals or how to treat myself.

I also don’t like feeling sad. It’s not my inherent disposition. There was a time of grief for me that I wasn’t prepared for in the past and this reminds me of that time, but I do know it’s not the same. This grief is not ugly. It’s sweet.

So, this experience is not of avoiding. This is of fully living the loss and also experiencing all the losses before her. Writing helps move these emotions and funnel them through my heart. Writing about how I experience sadness and loss without feeding it and giving it a separate identity helps me live through grief responsibly.

I also chose to write this because if I choose to only share the positive discoveries in areas such as creative growth or self-improvement through my writing, then I’m hiding my full life experience, both dark and light. I believe it’s true: we are spiritual beings having a human experience. And this has been a dark time, so why not show how I’m using this experience creatively?

What am I working on/writing?

Since Athena died on Sunday, June 8, right now THIS post is what I’m working on… and it has served to show me WHY I write. Here is why I have made myself sit down and write and how it has served me during this time:

  • I write to connect with my Source, as my first priority…because I know without that, coming home every day for the first time in 15 years with no dog waiting to greet me with wags and whimpers would leave me depleted.
  • I write so I can keep in touch with me – my best friend, to keep things transparent to her, to keep her looped into all my real feelings about loss, not the ones I think I’m supposed to have, but the uncomfortable ones as well.
  • I write to stay INTENSELY PRESENT and discover all my feelings without judging them or me for having them, to not abandon myself while I feel guilt, love, anger, joy…. the latest of which is the pure joy of remembering all the humor this dog brought into my life.
  • I write to free my mind – the place where as humans, we are most in chaos, take our “stories of grief”, make them big and all about us…the place where “scarcity” and “ingratitude” is born. I write to bring my mind down into my heart and separate the story of what’s going on from the raw quality of the emotions.
  • I write to find comfort in knowing that dogs do go to heaven.
  • I write to explore events – like the ones that have happened since Athena left, such as the amazing afternoon that a large owl appeared to me three days after she passed.
  • I write because I like to document …and glad I do because I have found journal entries about her and me…ones I wrote the days before she left which have astounded me and have shown me the power of intuition.
  • I write to synthesize ideas from friends and sources – such as one from a dear friend who said that when you experience a loss, it brings to the surface all the losses you had before this one.
  • I write to romance my muse so I can use this experience of loss for inspiration and creativity.
  • I write to get at the truth, which is that Athena’s spirit is free and happy, that my grief while human, doesn’t show the real story… and that my life is infinitely better because of the experience with her!
  • I write to remember gratitude…gratitude for my support system that is there unconditionally for me, who would never say or think “it’s just a dog”, but understands that unique bond that only comes from these beautiful creatures who share our intimate spaces with such unconditional love.
  • I write to acknowledge the long-term, silent rapport I had with Athena. In that daily, telepathic communication, Athena was a blabbermouth! She was the funny, old lady who never shut up and the dear, faithful friend who was always there without words, offering unconditional presence, love and compassion no matter what I said or did. What human can do that?
  • I write to plant seeds of hope which is where I am now … and why I wrote this post.

Thank you Bernadette for the invitation I almost turned down, but really needed.

Thank you Athena for the gift of your joyful presence.

From Hop to Hope

120 Kodak Tri-X Film, Yashica-D Medium Format, January, 2014.

Bernadette’s Bio

Bernadette+Bernadette Rose Smith is the resident muse of MuseFusions. A writer and artist, she makes marks on paper with words and paint. Strives to be messy and playful. Casts all “shoulds” to the wind. Surrounds herself with artful and literary eye candy. Finds courage in embracing her vulnerability publicly. And, when she makes a real mess, she upcycles, repurposes and takes recreation in her re-creation. Her fidgety fascination with the power of words to heal birthed Enlightened Ink and published “Bernadette’s Pages: An Intimate Crossroad,” a book that journeys through the “I do but he doesn’t” time in her marriage. (Because life’s messy moments are invitations to love.) Bernadette also spends time in people’s homes and closets. (No, she’s not a voyeur or stalker.) She offers a holistic blend of Feng Shui, de-cluttering and organizing through her company, Enlightened Interiors. You’ll find her musing on Facebook and blogging at Musings from the Messy Room. And, you will find her answers to the Writer’s Blog hop here.


Bernadette’s Pages: An Intimate Crossroad


Musings from the Messy Room

8 Comments Add yours

  1. J.m. Rivas says:

    No better legacy for a loyal friend than to inspire his faithful companions…


    1. casadresden says:

      So true, J.m. Thank you for your comment.


  2. Profound and exquisite, Juliette. There is no doubt in my mind the Divine timing in all this. I cannot wait to share this on my FB Messy Room page and am linking this to your bio on my blog. You always speak to the heart, dear. Love you for you and for that … and for THIS. If I had a tail I would be wagging it right now.


    1. Thank you Bernadette for the invitation and for sharing this post.


  3. Michelle Inman Quesada says:

    Writing and art are powerful healers! Your words and experience validate that. Thank you for your bravery. ❤


  4. That was beautiful Juliette… I am glad that I hopped over here to read it… it brought up beautiful memories of my Snuggles 🙂 thank you!


    1. Thank you Suzanne for hopping over!


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