Flesh and Fur: Losing a pet is just as painful No Comments

Upon returning to work following the sudden death of my 32-year-old husband, I ran into a co-worker in the hallway. During our first interaction since the untimely death, I was expecting an awkward hug (personal versus professional interaction) and the usual comments – “Sorry for your loss;” “We will all miss Rod;” “Is there anything I can do to help.” Instead, I was dumbfounded when the first words he shared were, “I know exactly what you are going through as I recently lost my dog.” So my reaction was that I immediately applied the breaks to my vocal chords; kept both my arms secured to the side of my body; and most importantly kept the frozen poker look on my face. My reaction internally was, “You have got to be kidding me — my husband Rod is now compared to a dog whose life span is no longer than 18 years?” In my emotional state of widowhood, how could one compare my husband, the father of my child, my soul mate, and my future to an animal? Fast forward a few years and now I have a different outlook on what my co-worker was suggesting. Could he have approached it differently? Perhaps. Was he right? Probably. In my many years of facilitating widow support groups, I am constantly reminded that no two people grieve alike and each grief journey is different based on the individual, the type of loss, life’s challenges, support systems, relationship to the loss and so much more. How could a reaction to loss and subsequent grieving be summarized in only one way when we are all so different? When my mother passed away leaving behind 5 daughters, an outsider would have never believed we shared the same DNA. Our reactions spanned across a huge spectrum. While we all shared the loss of a parent, a few of us wanted to share mom stories, while others thought laughing was rude. Some of us lived far away and did not feel the daily impact of the loss while others did. Some of our children would never meet grandma and learn first hand of who she was. Now let’s take pets into consideration. Society has a tendency to belittle or devalue the emotional devastation of a pet loss. While the loss is personal, there is no public memorial service, no bereavement leave benefit from work, no designated period of time for mourning which leaves the mourner isolated and silent. One of my summer guilty pleasures is to watch America’s Got Talent. Watching the auditions recently of individuals and their pet captures only a portion of the relationship of flesh and fur. For some people, their relationship with their pets is no different than our relationship with another person. So why wouldn’t the pain and suffering from losing a pet be any different than a human loss? Let’s try to imagine the emotions of someone who has lost a pet –- what if their pet met them at the front

A Forever Decision: Letting Go of a Dog (Part 11) No Comments

All right. I’m officially depressed. I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to name the illness. But I’m admitting it. I am paralyzed. This is the third day that I have not been able to accomplish any task except eating, drinking, walking my dog, and talking to Walter on the phone. I suffer from depression and anxiety year-round anyway. But now I have things to do and I can’t do them. I feel overwhelmed. There are too many changes going on at once, and the voices in my head are coupling…

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A Forever Decision: Letting Go of a Dog (Part 10) No Comments

Uncle Steve went home. He’s back in his home after six weeks – one week in the hospital and five weeks in the rehabilitation center trying to strengthen his limbs so he could walk better. In a strange way, I’ve had a strong emotional reaction against the move. I’ve cried like a baby. It took me a couple of days, but that’s what I did. If I can figure it out at all, it’s that I’m thinking, “This is the beginning of the end.” And that makes me really sad. My Aunt Doris came home after rehabilitation…

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A Forever Decision: Letting Go of a Dog (Part 9) No Comments

My Uncle Steve turned 94 yesterday. I’m very happy that he’s still with us, and very proud that he has reached such an advanced old age. We tried to bring him home from the rehabilitation center last week, but the hospice worker recommended some accommodations to the house that had to be fulfilled before he could sign off on the transfer. The major one was to remove furniture and make space for a hospital bed, which at eight feet long and four feet wide, is a big order to fill…

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A Forever Decision: Letting Go of a Dog (Part 8) No Comments

I feel very anxious today, more anxious than I have been since I found out that my uncle has terminal cancer. He has been in a rehabilitation center for a month to work on strengthening his muscles and coordination. He was supposed to come home today. I visited him for four days in the center. It was very strange to be there and brought back memories of visiting my granddad in a nursing home in the late 1970s. Uncle Steve looked well, and he was eating well. His mind is still very sharp…

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A Forever Decision: Letting Go of a Dog (Part 7) No Comments

It has been a week since I found out that my Uncle Steve has terminal cancer. I’ve felt sick to my stomach. I’ve felt calm. I’ve felt trapped. I’ve felt hopeful. I try to think about how I’ll feel without him in my life. I wonder what his life will be like until the end. I thank God for painkillers. I call him every day. I’ve planned a trip on November 13th when I’ve completed my work contracts and can drive across the state to see him. I ask him how he feels every day. He says…

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A Forever Decision: Letting Go of a Dog (Part 6) No Comments

There are certain beings in this life that I love more than anyone else. They are: my dogs Isabella and Camilla, my boyfriend Walter, and my Uncle Steve. I lost Cami due to a brain tumor seven weeks ago. I have struggled to keep on top of my emotions – and by that, I mean that I have struggled to always face my emotions and not push them down. It has been very hard to concentrate for any length of time. And it has been hard to keep my motivation strong. Last week was so hard that…

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A Forever Decision: Letting Go of a Dog (Part 5) No Comments

I am beginning to remember things about my daily life with my dog, Camilla, that give me pleasure. When she lost her sight, I would walk her up and down the straight sidewalk in front of our house. When we came to a step, I would say, “Step,” and stop her. Then I would reach down and take her paw and pat the top of the step so she could get oriented. Then we would walk on the steps. I feel a warm swelling in my heart when I remember it. To think that I loved her so much that I protected her…

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A Forever Decision: Letting Go of a Dog (Part 4) No Comments

It has been a month since I lost my beloved Camilla due to a brain tumor. Today I felt desolate. Tears sprang into my eyes when I thought of what we went through a month ago. The grief was fresh enough to constrict my throat and blur my vision. I’ve been experiencing grief in waves, and chunks. Last week, I felt bereft and hopeless for a couple of days and had to talk to myself to keep myself going. “Anne, people need you. Isabella needs you. You have to take care of her…

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Grief and Four Paw Love No Comments

The first death most of us experience is the loss of a pet. How your family handled the death of the pet no doubt blazed an impression in your psyche. It is normal to experience agony of spirit and to feel deep sorrow for the loss as well as other customary grieving emotions such as guilt, denial, anger, and sometimes depression. Spending time talking and sharing memories comforts the grieving. You will find this is not a time to be judicious with your emotions. Honoring your pet is a way of giving thanks…

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