I hope you had a delicious Thanksgiving and feel a little more rested than you did before the festivities began. While there is a lot of focus on the fun and the food when the holidays arrive, something else comes to the surface too: the feeling of loss when someone we love is no longer in our lives. Grief can hit hard sometimes, but it is possible to move through those feelings with incredible grace.
It’s been almost a year since I lost my angel pup Bella. She left this earth on December 1st, 2015 and I learned so much from the process of letting her go. Perhaps you can relate this to the passing of someone important to you too.
Learning about grief is not something I (or anyone I know) would ever sign-up for. I would have loved to have skipped this chapter of life all together, but alas it’s the one thing we must all experience in our lives. It’s one of the things that connects us on a human level, no matter your race, religion, political views, or socioeconomic status. We all will grieve at some point in our lives.
For the first several months, I replayed the events of her life repeatedly. I wondered if I could have been a better dog-mom, if I was too over-protective, if I had held onto her for too long, and I cried often wondering if she was happy. In fact, I still can’t hold back the tears as I write this. She was the brightest light of my life for ten whole years. She loved me everyday and the love I felt for her is something I never even knew was possible. It was a true gift.
Being her mom allowed me to pick myself up after my heartbreaking divorce, it helped me feel less lonely when I was uncomfortable being single, and it helped me to become more selfless as a young woman living in New York. But the end of it all brought up feelings I thought I would never survive at some points.
Here’s what I learned during this process:
- There is a cost to love. I know that might sound morbid, but I promise I don’t mean it to. I actually feel empowered by this truth and owning it has me feeling more prepared to allow love in my life in the future. As I began unpacking all of my sadness after she passed (and even the months leading up to it), I had to really own that loss is a part of love. And that’s ok. For years I avoided the thought of ever feeling any loss at all costs and when it would come up, I was left devastated at a catastrophic level. Now, I feel I can choose love and also know that it will come with some loss too, which makes me feel ten times more prepared for the ups and downs of it all. At the end of the day, I would still have chosen to love Bella even though I know I’d have to let her go at some point.
- You will survive. Even though sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. I remember the grief that came over me after my former husband and I decided to end our marriage, and how I was certain I could never let myself feel that pain again. Well, losing Bella brought back many of those feelings, plus others, and I survived. I cried every single day for the first 4 months, mostly in private as I lay in bed trying to sleep without her. But I made it through. We humans are stronger than we give ourselves credit for and it’s important to remind ourselves of that during our toughest times in life.
- Set yourself up to be supported. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t let my friends and family know that I needed them to show up when I finally had to put Bella to sleep. My tribe is great, but no one is a mind-reader and I find it to be our own personal responsibility to make sure we communicate our needs when we need it most. My Mom took me to the vet and stayed with me for a little while after, and then gave me some space to process. Then, a few of my best friends showed up a few hours later to hold a ceremony for me as a dog-mom and for the gift that Bella was in my life. The support I felt that day is something that will be with me forever and I am so grateful I told them exactly what I needed.
I know that not everyone who reads this is going to totally get why losing a dog created this tremendous wave of emotion in my life. And I can appreciate that, but even still I needed to share my perspective with you as I always do. Whether you’ve lost a dog, are grieving the end of a relationship, or the loss of one your nearest and dearest, I hope this blog helps in some way. If you know someone dealing with grief, consider sharing this with them and let them know you’re keeping them in your heart.
Now, I would love to hear from you. Have you ever experienced grief? If so, what did it teach you? Or is there a lesson I shared that really resonates with you? Tell me all about it below and remember, I am sending you so much love.