Tuesday, September 22, 2009


While I was pondering what aspect of Love, Life and Loss that I wanted to address this month I received an email from someone who shared a moving story about how her daughter dealt with a loss. This amazing 16-year-old created quite a visual masterpiece to assist her in processing through her feelings of grief and loss as well as to honor her loved one. I was so moved by the depth of her emotions and her ability to capture her feelings on tape that I just had to share them with you. In my work with children and adults I know the healing power that the arts afford. In fact, my writing, as is the case with many, was born out of sorrow and unresolved anger. Heather agreed to an interview in which she shares her journey through Love, Life, and loss. Her moving video is shared at the end of the segment.

Interview with Heather

Diane: Tell us about your friend Bella.

Heather: Well, Bella was my horse for just over a year, but I'd been working with herher and riding her for over a year and a half when she left. At first, shewas just a project temporarily and something to ride, because my previoushorse had just come up lame and so we couldn't ride her anymore. She wasgoing off to be a broodmare and I needed something to ride. We really didn'texpect her to do much, because at first, she didn't seem like much. Butafter a while, she began to show promise, and I began to get attached toher. In June of '08 we started leasing her and I really got attached afterthat. I was starting to really like her at that point, but I wasn't in loveyet, because I was trying to stay somewhat distant just because she was sotemporary. But after that, things shifted, and we started to work together as a team. We really started to bond and connect, and it was really cool. Atour second horse show was where we really got it together. It was about twomonths after we first started leasing her. It was like everything finallyclicked, and we started to work together even better. Eventually we got to where we were doing some pretty tough stuff, and we'd both grown so much together. Not only was she better to ride and I a better rider, but also Bella hadreally opened up and developed a super sweet personality, and I became more confident and brave.

What is about Bella that makes her so special to you?

We had such a strong connection. She was always there for me no matter what. That sounds odd, but it really isn't. Even when the world was crashing around me, she was the one thing that was always constant. She couldn'tjudge me, and she was the perfect shoulder to cry on. She didn't care how my hair looked or if my eyeliner was smudged. No matter how my day went, I could look forward to the afternoon when I would get to see Bella, and know that she'd be happy to see me every time. Sometimes if I'd had a really bad day, I'd hop on bareback and we'd just do whatever. Sometimes we'd go for along walk; sometimes we'd do more. But it was nice to have an escape, and someone to tell my problems to who wouldn't judge or use my secrets against me. She was my best friend.

How much time did you spend with Bella?

I go to the barn pretty much every day. I ride six days a week, but I have togo out each day to feed and clean stalls. Most of my free time is spent atthe barn actually, so I spent a lot of time with her. Probably a good two hours or so on days when I rode, and a little less when I didn't. Sometimes it was more; it just depended on what I was doing and how long I had.

What did you learn from your relationship with Bella?

One of the biggest things I learned from Bella was confidence. About a yea ror so before I had Bella, I took a really scary fall off of a horse, and it really shook me up. So when I first started with Bella, I was a bit of a timid rider. I wasn't too easily scared anymore, but I was definitely nervous. Especially on new horses, like Bella. Eventually though, I trusted Bella so much that all of that went away. I would have done anything with her. We galloped around the ring bareback and jumped really big jumps; I even cantered her without any tack, and never for a moment was I scared. She also taught me patience, because Bella had a lot of opinions. She could be extremely stubborn, and you couldn't force her to do anything. You had to just keep asking, and sometimes, it would take a really long time to get her to do what you were asking. I also gained a lot from her as a rider. In the year and a half that I had Bella, my riding improved tremendously. I went from 3-foot fences being a thrill, to cantering up to a jump that was 3 feet9 inches with no fear. We even jumped that high bareback. With Bella I learned to really RIDE and no longer be a passive rider.

What did Bella learn from you?

When I started with Bella, she wasn't very nice and she had horrible manners. None of the barn workers would handle her most of the time because they were scared of her. She would bite, kick, and rear in hand. Under saddle, she would spontaneously turn and run for no good reason. Over time though, these habits all went away. She opened up and responded to my attention. She became very sweet most of the time, and would nicker and come to the gate running when called. When we first started working over jumps, she would refuse at little jumps that could have been walked over, but then learned to trust me enough for the much bigger fences. She stopped always relying on herself and learned to trust me to take care of her. When we started jumping, it was difficult at first, because she didn't trust me, and she wanted to try to do it all on her own, but she needed me to get her to the jump right, and to help her get over, and she eventually learned to let me help her.

I hear that because of some very unfortunate events it was necessary for Bella to go back to her original owner.

When were you told that she would no longer be with you and your family?We were told August 1st, and we took her back on August 5th.

How did you react to this news?

I was completely heartbroken, and we were actually going out to the barn that morning, so I did the only thing that made sense to me and spent most of the morning with Bella not doing much of anything but being with her. I just made sure she knew how much I loved her, and that's pretty much what I did all the days leading up to the 5th. I rode her bareback every day and just talked to her and spent time with her. I knew I was going to miss her so much and I spent as much time as possible with her to make up for thet ime we wouldn't have.

How did you come up with the idea of creating a video?

I've been making videos of Bella and I for about a year now, and it just seemed like a good way to end that chapter of my life.

How did creating this video assist you in the grieving process?

It helped me to go back through all of the memories while still being able to be slightly distant because I had to look at it from a non-emotional point of view to make it look really good. It's still really hard to think about her, and somehow, this made it easier. I could play through it all while still looking at is as 'just another video clip'. Plus, it really gave a feel of finality to the whole thing, and I think I needed that. It just didn’t' feel real to me. It still doesn't feel completely that way,because Bella was such a huge part of my life for such a long time, but I do think it helped me to accept it at least a little bit.

What advice do you have for anyone who has lost a pet, special friend, or family member?

I really find it easier, at least for now, to just not think about it. Ihaven't even been out to visit her since we took her back, because I can'thandle it yet, but I think that's ok. It's ok to be sad, because that's partof the process, but you don't have to dwell on it. Go do things to get yourmind off of it. That's what I did. I went out and did things with other people. I didn't even go to the barn for a couple of days after because I knew it would upset me too much to be there without her. I try not to think about her too much right now, because it's still really upsetting when I get to thinking about all the wonderful moments we had, and could've had, because she was just recovering from a long term injury, and was going to be even better than before, but I never had the opportunity to find out what we could have been, and I was just getting used to the idea, that she'd get to stick around instead of being mostly retired due to the injury. I do think about her sometimes, and I've watched a lot of the videos I made of the two of us when I think I'll be ok, and it's nice to still have some way ofholding onto her. But I don't force myself to come to terms with her not being there. I've just kind of been slowly letting go, little by little. Some days it's harder, and I feel like I've taken a step back, but I really think that I've come a long way from where I started. And even though I miss her so much, and I wish I didn't have to go through this, I'm so glad Ihad her for the time that I did, and it helps to think that she could'venever come into my life in the first place, and to know that, even if her leaving hurts, I'm a better person because of her.

Thanks Heather for sharing your story.


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