Navigating Collective Grief

“Horses have helped myself, and many others, understand and work through this grief.”

— Laurie Higgins-Kerley

It’s no secret that the energies of our world are afflicted. When children are afraid of the dark, it’s the insidious unseen monster, hiding in wait to get them. We see much the same with COVID-19. In these times, for those in quarantine and/or practicing social distancing, we are forced to face ourselves, which is arguably one of the most difficult parts of life regardless of our global situation. But I’m not here to talk about the intricacies of a virus that we seemingly know little about. I want to talk about the collective grief many are experiencing as a result of this virus and how horses have helped myself, and many others, understand and work through grief.

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We are experiencing a collective grief as a result of this virus and the current times.

For me, grief has touched every fiber of my body. I lost someone  who I believed was my forever partner, husband of 25 years and father of our four  children, to a rare cancer that wreaked external and internal havoc. It felt like every part of me carried a large proportion of this unbearable weight, and grief clung to me like a small child. With its innumerable layers, it became a constant companion, showing its many faces and forms. I became a student of grief, rebellious at times, but nevertheless learning experientially. As my heart began to mend one fiber at a time, it seemed grief was a worthy teacher. This process, like any healing process, was not linear: I had (and still have, if we’re being honest) moments where the weight of my grief pressed on my lungs, imploring me to stop, listen, and breathe… just breathe. At times still today, it swiftly brings me back to some of the hardest moments of my life. But what I want to share is that in the midst all of it, I had the blessing of being around the most beautiful, emotionally intelligent creatures on this earth: horses. You might be wondering what emotionally intelligent means. It’s a rather expansive concept, but much research has been done on the emotional benefits of interactions with horses and their ability to recognize human emotion.

Horses are honest, transparent, and sensitive creatures that are highly aware of their surroundings. Not only that, horses carry many similarities to humans.

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They are honest, transparent, and sensitive creatures who are highly aware of their surroundings. Not only that, horses carry many similarities to humans. Socially, horses define societal roles, prefer to be with their peers, have individual personalities and moods, and enjoy the simplicities of having fun. Unlike us, they do not live in their heads and instead live in tune with their body’s sensory information — what’s going on all around them and the energies moving through them, which include emotions (energy in motion). They do this without panicking, bracing, or trying to fight them. They have the ability to allow what wants to happen in their bodies with grace and ease.

The beauty of horses is not just apparent in their physical attributes, but in their ability to accept us as we are, where we are. They live in the present moment (as do all animals). When I was grieving, the small herd of horses at Dove Creek met me in the here and now, not needing me to be anything different than who I was in that moment. Can you imagine how healing it is to feel no pressure to be anyone else than who you are? Because they are herd animals and also socially intelligent, I felt they were making me a part of their herd as they would take turns coming close and standing with me.  They held an authentic space for me, and I began to trust this process. Each time I became more congruent with the truth of my huge emotions — that they just needed to move. And no words were spoken.

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Can you imagine how healing it is to feel no pressure to be anyone else than who you are?

An undeniable truth about horses I believe is that they exist on a higher level of consciousness. They are truly authentic and act as a mirror, reflecting the quality of energy we are expressing non-verbally, bringing us to a higher level of consciousness, if we allow it. I believe we are practicing a form of self-love when we engage with them in this way: a radical act of choosing to see ourselves more clearly and honestly within a container of safety. This is the medicine of the horse, a master guide in assisting us in navigating the changing shape and space of grief. Twelve years later, I still have waves of grief that surface. Sometimes it feels like a heavy weight. But I have learned to listen to the whispers of my heart, knowing the divine cauldron of wisdom is stirring, continuing to transform and teach my evolving mind, body, and spirit. As we navigate the coming days, may we consider the wisdom of the Horse. Allow our hearts to open to one another and listen to the nuances of what is being expressed, finding the places we can connect and support one another. I believe one day we will look back and see the silver linings of this collective death and change, helping us to connect the dots with renewed perspective in the evolution of humanity.

Many blessings,

Laurie

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