Grief is never-ending. It seems to disappear for a bit then out of the blue, it comes back into your life—just to remind you that it’s still hanging around.
Today grief reminded me that it was still present in my life. While reading about the passing of a bloggers beloved pet, I discovered tears running down my cheeks uninhibited. It took me a few seconds to realize I was crying, not just in sympathy for the loss of a beloved family pet, but because it reminded me of my own loss not quite two years ago.
Her name was Precious and she was the best thing that had ever happened to me. She was in our lives for almost 13 years—something that always stuck with me the most. I guess I hold on to that number because it means something (although I still haven’t figured out what that something is). Precious was such a light in our lives and the day we lost her was like a piece of that light left.
I still remember that day very vividly. It was my responsibility to take her leash and collar with me as we left the vet’s office and it felt so empty not being attached to her neck. Its use was no longer needed but we couldn’t just throw it away.
I was the first to arrive back at the house before my parents and could do nothing but walk in and sit on the sofa. What strikes me the most about that day was how deathly quiet it was—literally deathly. It wasn’t natural and didn’t feel right. Once my parents returned, my mother, almost on autopilot, went outside to unhook Precious’ outside leash. Immediately, she burst into tears, allowing the floodgates to open.
I couldn’t watch, it was too hard and much too soon for me. The problem was, I still felt her presence in the house. It was everywhere from her toy basket in the corner to the food and water bowl, still in her spot. Not only did I feel the physical presence of Precious, but a few times I could’ve sworn I saw her running in the yard just like she used to. Other times, I heard her barking and would wake up only to quickly realize it was all in my head. Maybe if I didn’t think too hard I could imagine her being held at the vet for some random checkup and not dead. And that’s when I knew how my process of grief was going to play out; I was in the avoidance stage.
Throughout the grief process I was never angry or pleading for God to bring her back. Instead, I just avoided facing my feelings about her passing. It made things easier to handle. I would go to work and cuddle with my favorite companion—a cat named Tigg, who I would go to when I needed a good cry. However, I couldn’t bring myself to tell my boss and co-workers about my dog’s passing because then it would make it…final.
I had a routine following her death where I would go to work, cry and seek comfort from Tigg, be fine the rest of the day until I was about 10 minutes away from my house, where the waterworks would start up. I had to compose myself before walking into the house as I didn’t want my mom to see my tears. This happened for weeks like clockwork. I guess I was hiding my grief so it wouldn’t make her more upset. It was already difficult enough that she was in an empty home without her companion while the rest of us were away at work.
My mom suggested I talk about it with my work family to help with the grieving process but I couldn’t bring myself to speak about her just yet. However that all changed when weeks later, my favorite companion Tigg was leaving to go back with his own family. I always knew he wouldn’t stay with us forever. Tigg had actually overstayed (to my delight) so I knew our time would end, but not so soon. The day before he was to be picked up, I spent extra time with him, giving Tigg all the love I could. Thankfully I wasn’t working the day he left, as it would have been too hard to watch. Little did I know how hard it would be to see his empty cage. Once that happened, my grief poured out ten-fold. It was like losing Precious all over again.
I had never properly grieved her passing because I transferred all that love onto Tigg without even realizing it. My heart was empty after losing Precious and I used Tigg as a replacement. But once he was gone from my life, it opened up that wound again where I had no choice but to finally face my grief—and face that I would never see Precious again.
Years later, our family found love again in a beautiful Golden we named Nikolaj, Niko for short. However, we’ll never forget our first Golden. I’ve come to realize that while Niko filled part of the hole in our hearts, that other part will never be filled again. From my experience, I now understand grief will never leave you, it’ll unexpectedly show up, but always remember it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re not happy and content in life, it’s just a reminder that while life goes on, you never forget those who passed on.
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