Saturday, May 23, 2015
I have now lost two incredible dogs and the grieving process for each has been totally different. When Bess got diagnosed with osteosarcoma, my world was turned upside down. I was so incredibly ANGRY! I wanted nothing more than for this disease to be some one's fault. I wanted to hunt that person down and I wanted to beat the living shit out of them for doing this to my sweet, happy girl. I could not wrap my head around the fact that this dog who, at the time, was standing alive in front of me, had a disease that would take her life and there wasn't a damn thing that I could do about it. I felt utterly helpless and angry. I took some time off of work to enjoy the time I still had with her and to try and work through what I was feeling. I had so many emotions that I was cycling through so quickly and I was just generally having a very difficult time knowing that I was about to lose my little girl. Her loss was so monumental to me, that it was hard to fathom how the rest of the world hadn't come to a screeching halt as well. Her loss hurt so badly, that at times I couldn't understand how the rest of the world didn't feel the loss of her as well.
In an attempt to deal and work through this, I decided to keep a private journal so that I could word vomit every thought that was going through my head and every emotion I was going through. Originally I thought that I might post it to the blog, but I quickly realized that if I started writing with the intention of posting it where anyone could read, I started censuring what I was writing. And that defeated part of the purpose of the journal. I wanted to get everything out as I was feeling it, without feeling self conscious about how someone else might perceive it. There have been a few times over the past year that I've thought about going back through the journal and reading over what I wrote, but I haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet. I'm still too well aware of what I was going through at that time, and things are still too raw for me to relive that pain. Even just a few months ago, it was still painful to look back at pictures and video of Bess. While the immediate pain of her loss has dulled, it's still absolutely there. And probably reopened to a certain extent after losing Heffner.
I do feel that I handled the grieving process for Bess as well as I could. I gave myself time and I tried to work through the emotions and accept what was happening/happened. There is no rule for grieving. There is no one who can tell you how long it will take or what things are guaranteed to help. How many tears are appropriate? What will make you feel better? Do you even want to feel better? When does it stop hurting? There is a quote that someone posted a few months after Bess passed that I felt really summed up how I was still feeling: "The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but, you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to." - Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and John Kessler.
It is very easy to judge how others deal with grieving. We base our judgements a lot of times on how WE would react to the situation. Or at least how we THINK we would react to the situation. It's easy to be outside looking in and think "gee that person is still going on about this." Or "gee, they haven't said much. Maybe they don't actually miss her/him at all." We all handle loss differently and we each have the right to handle that loss in our own way.
Loss causes an emotional reaction. Emotion isn't logical. It's going to do what it's going to do and when you're right smack dab in the middle of it, it's just hard. No one outside of the situation can understand the exact pain that you're going through. No one else can fully understand the full impact. Often times, we don't even understand the full impact of each loss until it knocks our feet out from under us. You can't anticipate it. You can't reason with it. It is, what it is and you just have to figure out how to cope.
I don't know that I have handled Heffner's loss the best. I chose not to take any time off from work. Admittedly, the schedule was fairly full and we're still a little low on fully trained staff. I also thought that the distraction would help. When I'm at work, I'm surrounded by the millions of things that remind me of him. I'm not in a place where his absence is constantly and painfully being driven home. I only told a couple people and I asked not to talk about it. I work with really great people who are very understanding of what my dogs mean to me. They would have been respectful of my need for space regardless, but talking about it made it real. And pretending that he was still at home waiting for me was just easier.
Once I was home, I kept myself constantly busy with house work, yard work and Miley. Now I needed to make sure that she had play dates. I was her sole source of entertainment and exercise. When I wasn't focusing on that, I could put comedy shows on. Funny shows were distracting in a way that wouldn't allow me to linger. Basically, I was finding ways to not let myself grieve and accept the loss of Heffner. While I don't think there is necessarily a right way to grieve, I also think that trying to pretend it didn't happen or ignore it, doesn't help.
After about a week of trying to ignore it, I was getting hit really hard when I would acknowledge it. His loss was/is crippling at those moments. Each dog means so many different things to us. Heffner and Bess have both been staples in my life for so long that while I understood they wouldn't be there forever, it was easy to get lulled into the sense that a time without them was so far in the future that it wasn't worth thinking about. They saw me through my divorce and all the scary and happy life changes that came with that. They were my sources of unconditional love whenever I needed it. They were my rocks. I have joked many times that Heffner was my chaperon. How he was always looking out for me and protecting me. It was a funny joke, but it was also true. I felt so incredibly safe with him around. He has proved himself in a couple of situations that I don't think would have ended well for me if I didn't have him there. He gave me a sense of safety and security that also gave me a freedom that I didn't even realize. Until now.
I miss him so much. He was my love. My protector. And this amazing presence in my life. I am trying to figure out how to deal with the fact that he isn't just sleeping on the couch waiting for me to do something. Or curled up on the bed next to my bed while I sleep. Or waiting to roo in my face when I come home from work. This is me figuring out how to grieve for him,
I am incredibly thankful that I have Miley. She loves the cuddles when I need them. She's happy and loving. She's sassy and hilarious. She keeps this house from feeling empty. She's just generally the little love that I need her to be, especially right now.
I do have more happy posts forthcoming, but I needed to get this one out. I felt the need to post this and acknowledge the two amazing beings that I have been lucky enough to have in my life.