Re-discovering Purpose After Loss
By Victor Westgate

We all have experienced grief in our lives, but I am surprised by how deep this loss feels. My Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has been in my life for almost thirteen years. She has been my side-kick, traveling across America, visiting family and friends and walking by my side daily. Moving to Rhode Island several years ago required a transition on my part and Daisy provided an emotional connection to both past and present.  As we walked through town, made new friends and even established familiar places to go like the local coffee shop my furry companion was by my side keeping me connected to the present moment with a certain amount of reassurance.

All that ended about seven weeks ago when my wife and I decided to euthanize Daisy. After several months of lameness that did not respond to medication, Chinese herbs and acupuncture, we felt her suffering was too great. Her passing was at home, very gentle and comforting but I still question if I did the “right” thing by letting her go. I realize part of not wanting to let her go is so much of my daily routine was tied up in the rhythms of caring for my pet that I feel an emptiness that I am not sure how to fill.

For the most part, Daisy, if I was honest, gave me purpose and a sense of contentment. Much like a parent who sees their life through the eyes of their young child, I experienced my daily living thru her movements as well as pure joy in her living in the moment. Whether walking a trail or riding a bike with a burley wagon attached to my bike, found Daisy by my side. After her passing I came to realize how much my sense of purpose was intertwined with having her in my life and how I am unsure what my sense of purpose will look like in the years ahead. I find this moment in time both a gift as well as a challenge.

Our sense of purpose is so important, especially as we age. When we discuss purpose, we are not talking our daily list of things to do but rather acknowledging what makes us excited to get up in the morning for the day, week, month and year that lies ahead. My reminder of this condition is a gentle confirmation of what I am thankful for and what lies ahead of me in pursuing this thing we call purpose.

In one of our recent sessions in a workshop series we talked to participants about examining their sense of purpose. Our purpose changes as we grow and evolve. What was important to you at one time may no longer serve your highest potential. You may for example question your unique gifts, strengths and skills, and how you bring these into the second half of your life.

My sense of purpose has been entwined with Daisy since retirement. This epiphany or admission on my part now provides me with an opportunity to create a new sense of purpose; a sense that much is possible in terms of goals without the limitation of considering both movement and goals with your companion’s well-being as part of the equation. Already, I am preparing new presentations, taking trips where dogs are not allowed and to be truthful, rediscovering myself and my relationship with my wife.

As difficult as it is for me to accept, I know that everyone and everything has an expiration date. Death of a loved one whether a pet, child, friend, parent or partner can be very painful but when you realize that the gifts that are left behind make this time a bit sweeter. To be unconditionally loved was the priceless gift I received from Daisy to which I am forever grateful.

About the Author

Victor Westgate, a high school educator of 34 years, along with his wife Dr. Lisa Cowley, a holistic chiropractor and nutritional counselor of 25 years, are authors of Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life. You can learn more at:


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