With the passing of my beloved pet on Saturday, I have reflected back to other more devastating losses throughout my life. You can’t compare the death of your dog to the loss of your mother or father, although at times, the pain could be the same. It comes down to the fact that a piece of your world as you know it, has disappeared. Sure, sure, sure, they’re “in your heart” but you’re not holding them. You’re not talking to them. They are not available to help you, listen to you or comfort you. You miss their touch, their voice, their face, their laughter, their mannerisms. It’s as though your life stops for a moment to reassemble itself. It can’t go on the way it was because a link is missing. I have fixed that link a few times in my life. It just took awhile to find the right tools.
Losing my father when I was twenty two was not only excruciating but I was totally oblivious to the stages of grief. I focused on the pain of my younger siblings and my mother and drove full throttle into life thinking all I needed was a brand new sports car purchased with inheritance money to do it. Wow, was I wrong. My body basically shut down with daily migraines and I was just stuck. During a visit to the doctor’s office, she asked me “Have you grieved the loss of your dad?” I must have looked at her with a blank stare because she answered for me, “I don’t think so”. So I finally allowed the pain to touch me, punch me, kick me and the tears flowed for weeks, or months. There were no more migraines and I became more aware of the steps to getting my life back. I had already completed the anger stage. Check! I brought that one right to the funeral home with me. I distinctly remember cursing him out, under my breath for leaving me so early in my life. Lack of maturity was only part of that, the rest is just about a daughter who never thought she was good enough. I needed more time to prove him wrong….or prove myself wrong.
Moving through the other stages was a natural progression. I just needed a kick start. Marriage, motherhood and a career path intertwined with my grieving process. It amazes me how our past and the effects of our past spill into our future and our future generation.
We are what happened to us.
We are how we feel.
We are how we deal.
Then even when we think we have it all figured out, death knocks on your door again and it’s time for another reconstruction of your life.
My brother was thirty six. It was sudden. Only three years younger, I still considered him my baby brother. This one blindsided me into oblivion. You think you have the tools but you fluster to find them. You think you have the strength but God only knows where you get that from. This time I said, “No way! ” . There was no way I was going to live my life without my brother. Brothers aren’t supposed to drop off the face of the earth overnight when you’re supposed to enjoy many more years of sibling rivalry and love. Brothers aren’t supposed to outlive their parents. I grabbed onto those trusty stages of grief with all my might this time, hoping that somehow I’d still be here when they were done with me. Acceptance was the peace I found in the end, but keeping his memory alive was the best tool I could have ever pulled out of the box.
Death is part of life. As I reluctantly go to the vet’s office next week to pick out an urn for my sweet little dog’s remains, I will think of him as I always have in order to safely carry his ashes home. I have to treasure his life in order to embrace his death.