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Coping with Grief

Our sweet angel passed away on September 26, 2015. Nothing, I mean nothing, can prepare you for that kind of heartache. She was an integral part of our lives for fourteen years. And even though she was old, her death was unexpected.

We could never see tomorrow, no one ever said a word about the sorrow.” The Bee Gees

There’s no easy answer for how to deal with grief. No magic pill. No special words. You just….cope. You drift, moving through your day, hoping today will be better than the day before. You try to stay busy, occupied, so that you don’t dwell. But sometimes all you can do is think about what you lost because it’s no longer within your grasp.

I’ve experienced loss in my life—losing beloved grandparents, acquaintances, and special friends. And those losses were hard. But this, this was and is…heartbreaking and utterly painful.

I still see her everywhere, yet she isn’t with us anymore. In spirit, in memory, she is there. Early in the morning, when I’d leave for work, I’d always say to her and my husband: “Bye. I love everybody in this household.” I’ve caught myself saying it now, only there isn’t an “everybody” in the house, it’s just my husband and me. The first time I let it slip, I winced, realizing the brutal truth that I wouldn’t leave the house and find her there when I came back. I can’t hug her, love on her, have her cuddle next to me. I can’t call her name or talk to her. I can’t be with her.

There are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I’m teetering between stages. One day I’m fine; the next day I’m a sobbing mess. The other night, my husband and I were at Fuddruckers (if we’re friends on Facebook you know this is my weekly ritual. I should own stock in this company). I started crying while I was eating dinner. Why? Because earlier that day on my travels home from work I saw a woman on a walk with her two dogs.

People ask me, “Are you going to get another dog?” I know that they mean well, and really, in my opinion, I don’t think they don’t know what else to say. Death is an awkward conversation topic. It’s uncomfortable, even though it’s part of life. To me, asking if I’m going to get another dog is like asking a widower if he’s going to get married again. “Gonna get in that dating pool again? I hear Match.com works.” Sorry to sound cynical. I realize for some that getting another dog immediately after the death of their dog is comforting, but not to me. My answer to them is always the same: “I need time. If I got another dog now, I’d just compare them to her, and that’s not fair to the new dog.” She’s not replaceable.

I’ve received an outpouring of sympathy, from fellow pet owners and friends, and strangers who love their pets. I’ve heard sad stories of losing beloved pets. Some more tragic than others. Some more devastating than mine. I’ve heard about cherished dogs and cats who made an imprint in their lives, who were part of the family, whose death brought emptiness. And I know that I’m not alone.

We all grieve. Maybe we all grieve differently, but we’ve all experienced loss, and it feels the same for all of us – like our hearts have been ripped out, like it seems as if the sun will never shine again. I know I will get through this. Because it is the truth that is a part of life. I can’t have happiness without sadness. I can’t have life without death. It just takes time. Like all things – it just takes time.