My dog, Bug, was still alive, but she was not responsive. I had just found her on the floor of my mother’s car, a big black ford with bench seats. I ran to get my mother who was up at the club house watching the horse races with some of the trainers that she knew. She had decided to bring the dogs with her because she wasn’t sure if she would be returning home that night. The dogs would’ve been better off left on their own at our house.
We rushed Bug into a veterinary clinic. I watched the doctor expertly draw off some medication into a syringe. He proceeded to inject her with it and there was no discernable reaction from my dog. In hindsight, I’m sure he injected her with saline, realizing that she could not be helped but respecting our need to see the doctor take some kind of action.
I knew she was about to die and I was helpless to do anything about it. The pain of seeing her dying and the loss of having her leave, were too much for me to process at the time. This was compounded by the fact that it was ridiculous that my mother would leave two dogs in a black car in a large un-shaded parking lot on such a hot day, even if they had water and the window was open a bit. It was all pouring over me right now. I let it rip threw me and I started to sob. The pain in my body was intense, but there was relief from feeling the pain.
I was able to let it happen this time, instead of when Bug died, which would’ve been the best time to have cried over her death, because this time I was a doing an exercise aimed at releasing pent up strong emotions.
You see, strong emotions, once created, either need to be expressed through feeling them at the time, or the energy from the emotion just gets stored in your body. Since you have already decided that it would be too unpleasant to feel the emotion, each time you remember it, it tries to get out and a considerable amount of thought and effort must go into blocking the memory and the associated emotional response to it.
This effort to block the emotions can be expressed in multiple ways. It may take the form of an addiction to any type of medication, food, shopping, gossiping or simply being angry a lot of the time. You may be avoiding as much contact with other people as you can or working obsessively. Another unfortunate consequence of blocking emotions is that you will find that you do not feel any emotions. It is not possible to block only the unpleasant ones and you may simply find that you do not feel anything at all, good or bad.
If this blocking system fails you, say when you are tired, stressed or dealing with other issues, you will get an inappropriate emotional response when it is least expected. This will happen randomly, like snipping at a sales clerk, crying for no reason or getting angry with a co-worker. In order to release these feelings you need to create a safe time and place to just sit and allow yourself to feel.
This time and place can be deliberately created. The reason that you might like to do this is to let go of past trauma. Set aside some time when you have some privacy and actively allow yourself to conjure up old memories or just raw emotions. It might be helpful if you listened to music, read poetry or watched a particularly appropriate movie to help move the emotions along.
It is beneficial if you feel completely uninhibited. Loud sobbing or yelling may occur if you allow yourself to experience deep pain, hurt or anger. Also, it can be helpful to try doing this exercise in the shower or with a comforting blanket or quilt wrapped around you. Consider the fact that you want to maximize both your privacy and your comfort and try to find a suitable time and place to express the emotions you have been storing.
Be careful to keep your focus on the bodily sensations and your emotional response. It will not serve you if you focus on what happened, why it happened or why it should not have happened. These explanations detract from the experience of the emotion. What you want to do is feel the emotions, not try to justify them, explain them or even understand them. Focus on what you feel not how you would tell someone about it.
While doing this exercise, it was shocking to me to have the memory of Bug’s death surface. It had happened over thirty years ago and I had no idea that I had never processed the pain and anger. I guess it is understandable, given the fact that I deeply loved this dog. She travelled with me everywhere and I made a purse that was just the right size for her to fit into. She could tell me within seconds which friends were keepers and which should not be trusted. Despite the fact that she had a nasty habit of leaving my underwear at the front door, I adored this dog. Her death was not easy for me to handle. It took over thirty years to feel the pain.
After finally grieving this event, I can now recall her death. I still feel loss and sadness, but the deep pain and anger are gone. This is how you know that you have released the emotion. It is simply not still painful to remember anymore.