When grief comes, it can creep up slowly and take us by surprise. Other times, it can come with the speed of a freight train and hit us in the chest, knocking us off track. It can also throw us into denial, where we actually refuse to admit some thing terrible has happened or is now real. Whatever way grief arrives, it leaves us with feelings unlike any other emotions we may experience.
If the person or animal lived with us, it leaves a hole, and our surroundings trigger the loss over and over every time we see possessions of the ones we cherished. If we were dependent on the loss for comfort, companionship, sense of family, or other tasks valuable to us, the loss feels more intense.
I believe some people enter our lives and stay for a while, lighting our path, and giving us joy. They bandage our wounds. They show us over and over that they care for us, and they stay in our hearts for a lifetime. They make us rich with their time and attention. Our memories bind us to them and remind us of how lucky we were to have them in our lives.
Our pets become our family. We take care of them and they take care of us. We see them daily, talk to them, even when they don’t talk back to us. We learn their non-verbal behavior so we can meet their needs better, and they learn ours because they love us. Losing them cuts us to the heart. We can weep for days, see our pet everywhere we go. They were ours and we belonged to them. It is normal to grieve such a friend. It is normal to miss them.
I grieved a tri-colored collie who died of old age years ago and thought I would never be able to let her go. After months of grieving, I sat in my kitchen crying, and closed my eyes. Suddenly, I saw my dog in heaven running up and down the green hills, laughing, and so happy. She was looking back for me. The image stayed with me. I stopped crying, and felt peace. I knew she was in heaven waiting for us to run again.
Since then, I have been able to let her go because I knew she had no pain. She could walk and she could run, and she was happy. I knew she was in a better place. I am convinced that God chose that moment in time to let me know we were both going to be OK. The pictures and memories of the time we spent together comfort me. She and I will, one day, play again.
“For my friend who is grieving.”