I remember the morning 9 years ago when I woke up still in Brazil thanks to lingering jet lag. I had just spent a beautiful Christmas with my son and his wife in Cumbuco, Brazil. Spending a week by a sparkling beach in a simple and minimalist flat with two precious people in my life was simplicity at its heart.

Then I came home to complexity. Still waiting to be unpacked was a stack of boxes that had not been opened from my New York city move. It was 3 am but my passion to continue simplifying my life was fueled by a desire to move on from what seemed like a never-ending lesson in letting go! So, I selected a box labeled #19 (of 39). What I found inside broke my heart.

Heartbreaking Memories Filled with Love

I had not labeled the contents of my moving boxes. So with a cup of tea by my side and a cheerful optimism about what I was about to discover, I opened the box. The first thing I reached in and pulled out, wrapped carefully in pink tissue paper, was a little urn, a pink collar, and teddy bear. There were memories of my last little dog Chica. It had been 5 years since she died.

So, this is how hard this downsizing process is. First Chica. Well, she was a little ‘blue’ chihuahua. After my divorce, I lived alone in a beautiful little house in Seattle. It was a sweet place with a garden bigger than the house. There was a porch sheltered by a gorgeous cherry tree and a white picket fence.

Looking back it was a miniature version of what I defined as a perfect idyllic family home (minus the family). Since every home is not complete without the magic of a dog I began my search. We had owned a blue chihuahua called Sky in the past and I loved their lovely little faces and warm personality.

Blue/grey chihuahuas are hard to find, so I ‘ordered’ Chica from a breeder somewhere on the East Coast. I did my homework, spoke to the breeder and all seemed to be ok.  When my little dog arrived at Seatac in her gigantic shipping carrier my heart melted.  She was a little thing with big ears and the sweetest face. We became immediate soulmates.

Lessons We Learn from Our Pets

Truthfully I could write a book about Chica and the lessons she taught me.  She embodied everything beautiful about life. Chica was pure love, she made people laugh with her big ears that seemed to tip her over at times! At night sometimes she would go to my bookshelf and with her little teeth pull a title from the shelves. Her tiny brain always knew exactly what I needed to read on my healing journey.

She made me feel that I could love and trust again. My deepest friend, Chica was a little beam of light for a few years that were pretty sad for me.

Dealing with Loss While Downsizing

It turns out Chica was very sick from the minute she was born and I think we both knew that. As she got sicker, we got closer. So when she died that summer day I seriously was so overcome with grief I could not breathe. And I know that every single person reading this who has lost a pet knows exactly what I mean. I cried for weeks. My heart was broken.

When you lose someone, especially a pet, just about everything associated with them becomes the last remnant of their existence and treasures to be carried to the end of the earth.  So, I kept a huge box of Chica’s things. I held on to her toys, her favorite stuffed monkey that was bigger than her, her bowl and many little coats. Of course, I kept her urn along with her pink collar with little diamante crystals. As I sat on the floor with tears in my eyes, I hugged the tiny teddy bear that she slept with.

Letting Go of Chica’s Things But Not What She Meant to Me

So, I decided to let Chica’s things go.  I decided to bury the urn so that I feel her presence and can sit with her now and again. I thought about taking her ashes to San Juan Island where we used to have a home. She used to play like a crazy thing, dodging the eagles that we were all convinced would sweep down one day and take her away. It ended up closer to home. The washed and well-hugged teddy bear went to the Salvation Army along with all the other boxes of books and clothes.

I kept just the little pink collar with the tiny crystals.  That was the only thing I held on to. Chica embodied too much beauty and significance to not keep that in my life. It is on my desk as I type.

Are you holding on to things that are associated with a pet (or person) you lost? Is it time to let some of their things go? Please share your story. 

Let's Have a Conversation!