Learning from our Losses: The Impermanence of ALL Things – Except One

Dexter & Emma-Louise

This article is an exploration – of loss, the pandemic, of connection to ourselves and our feelings – and the impermanence of all things. It’s slightly different to articles you may be used to. It’s more personal and flowing (I’m having a hard time with structure this week). But to keep the focus on learning, always, I have also placed questions for you to ponder and journal around throughout this article.

So, here we get to the nub of it. It’s been a difficult week, as we finally euthanized our beloved dog Dexter. Not only did his back legs no longer work, but he had lymphoma – cancer of the lymph nodes. His cheeky, bodgy, boisterous self had slowly transmuted – and we could tell he was in pain and beginning to suffer mentally too. Anyone who has had a pet knows the difficulty of choosing the right time – trying to put your pet first, and not simply to ease your own aching heart.

Yet it is in times of great challenge that we find out who we are. What we are capable of. What we have learned – and how we have grown.

And our losses teach us something important – if we are willing to listen.

Dexter taught me 3 big things: 1) he was a constant reminder not to take life too seriously, 2) keep trying – or challenging authority – and never give up and 3) be yourself, no matter what.

With the pandemic, everyone has had a hard year.

On a global scale we may be lucky – if you’re reading this you’re probably not starving or homeless. But this doesn’t negate the fact that the pandemic has been hard for us. Just because our country is “wealthy” by global standards doesn’t mean we haven’t suffered. And when we tally up our losses we realise we have each been through a lot.

And as I pondered the last 15-18 months, here are my losses (in no particular order):

  • My freedom
  • Physical access to friends and family (hugs, spending time together)
  • For a while I lost my mobility following knee surgery (12 weeks before I was off crutches, 6 weeks where I was completely dependent on someone else)
  • The death of my mother in law (and not able to go to her funeral)
  • The death of my grandmother (and not able to go to her funeral)
  • Most recently the death of Dexter, our beloved dog
  • Lesser losses include a planned holiday and a long weekend I had been sorely needing and looking forward to
Questions for you to ponder
  1. What have been your losses during this pandemic time?
  2. What has been difficult for you?
  3. How have you honoured those losses – and your feelings?
  4. What have you discovered about yourself through this pandemic?

And yet, here are the things I have been lucky enough to keep:

  • Most of my income (although I have had to work harder and get creative)
  • My home and garden
  • My contentment/happiness (mostly – although not always)
  • My relationship with my husband (although we have worked at it)
  • My friendships (although the shape of some of these has changed)
Questions for you to ponder
  1. What have you kept hold of throughout this difficult time? What, even though it may have shifted, have you managed to maintain?
  2. Where should you be proud of yourself for the efforts you have made?

And here are some areas where I have grown:

  • My compassion for self – and others
  • Myself – clarity on who I am, what matters most to me, what I will fight for
  • My understanding of the world and what I believe needs to change (I still have a lot to learn here mind you!)
  • My inner strength
  • My purpose, including Fierce Kindness – the website, the philosophy and more!!!
Questions for you to ponder
  1. How have you grown during the pandemic?
  2. What has become clearer?
  3. What have you strengthened?
  4. What have you created?

Like me, I am sure you’ve grown in more ways than you realised (until now!)

Back to impermanence…

The loss of our our dog, Dexter, has focused me inwards. And reminded me of a core Buddhist principle – that everything is impermanent.

Consider that both:

  • “Good” things are impermanent – like our pets, flowers, a delicious meal. Perhaps we get a new unpleasant boss at our previously perfect job, or our favourite pair of jeans wears out. That store we loved closes down.
  • But so are the “Bad” things. The end of the pandemic is in sight – even if we still have a way to go yet. The initial intense grief of losing a loved one passes and transmutes to sadness. A headache passes and so does a hurricane or an embarrassing incident at work.

There is no doubt that life is hard at times. It is full of change and challenges and losses that we must bear.

But if we can embrace the impermanence of all things – and appreciate what we have while we have it without clinging too hard – life is easier and more satisfying.

And yet. Not EVERYthing is impermanent

As I have been thinking about Dexter’s death. And also the loss of my grandmother and my husband’s mom who both died this time last year, I realised:

There is one VERY important thing that is NOT impermanent: LOVE

Yes, there are some relationships where our love doesn’t last, but our ability to love is permanent and always with us.

Feelings of loss simply show us what we love…

I remember listening to Oprah once, and she said, “Grief is really love”. I have found this profoundly helpful.

Whenever I find myself tearing up, I have been actively remembering how much I loved Dexter. That I still love him.

And the realisation I had is that death does not end love. It removes the physical presence of our loved one, which is terribly hard, but our love is still there – and that’s why it hurts.

This is beautiful, important – and worth pondering.

Thankfully however, the pandemic is impermanent

We do seem to be slowly coming out of the pandemic. Yes, there changes, retreats and advances with the restrictions, but we are heading in the right direction.

During this pandemic, we have all suffered losses – and this is an important learning opportunity. Because the losses that hurt the most teach us what we care about most, what is important in life.

Questions for you to Ponder

As you consider your losses during the pandemic:

  1. What has each loss shown you about what matters most to you? What you value?
  2. What has each loss taught you about love? Who – and what do you love?
  3. What love is permanent in your life?
  4. What else have you learned from the losses and challenges you’ve experienced during COVID?

Wrap-upFierce Kindness Logo

This pandemic has been one huge curve ball – for all of us. And thankfully it’s impermanent.

And what I learned this week, is that love doesn’t end when a life does. That love can be permanent.

And this is a beautiful thing.

Change the world. Start with you!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like:


  1. Sandra

    So sorry to hear of your losses, Emma-Louise. Yet it is reaffirming that in our loss we are reminded that love is transcendent.

    • Emma-Louise Elsey

      Dear Sandra,
      I LOVE the way you summed that up – love is transcendent. Beautiful – and thank-you 🙂
      Em xxx

  2. Lynda Monk

    Hi Emma, I loved reading every word you shared here. I have been holding Dexter, you and Duncan in my thoughts and heart this week. Your writing and this blog makes a difference. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, experiences and perspectives here. Your deep thoughtfulness and care shine through here. I have been thinking a lot about loss and impermanence too, sparked by these Pandemic times and also by other losses that life has given. I am going to journal with the reflective questions you shared here in mind. Thank you.

    Still we rise. Love, Lynda

    • Emma-Louise Elsey

      Dear Lynda, thank-you for your kind and thoughtful words 🙂 And yes, indeed, Still We Rise! Em x

  3. Jacqui' Maxwell

    Emma, I am sorry for the losses you’ve experienced. May you find comfort in the days to come.
    Thank you for this wonderful article. As an Advanced Recovery Specialist, I look forward to incorporating elements in my work with persons who are grieving losses of all types.
    Blessings to you. Thank you for all that you do!

    • Emma-Louise Elsey

      Dear Jacqui’
      Thank-you so much for your kind words <3
      Warmly, Em x


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.