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On Grief After the Loss of a Pet

Unfortunately I’ve experienced enough grief in my life that I know every time and every person is very different in how they process. There doesn’t seem to be one “right” way to grieve, though I do fear that there seems to be a wrong way and it’s the one I’m best at unless I force myself to switch… Ignoring the grief completely. Masking it. Distracting ourselves to pretend it isn’t there so that we can have some semblance of normalcy in the heaviness that is life when we’re going through a tough space and time.

That ability to distract has been rearing its ugly head into my process more than I ever could have expected. Perhaps because we spent literally every second of most days together, I try to fill those spaces with something else entirely. My brain will think it hears Lux coming down the hall, but I know that’s impossible, so I turn the TV up louder. I struggle to sleep without him nearby, so I scroll through my phone or drink a few glasses of wine to let myself go to mush. I fear walking into places we used to go together, so I simply visit other places entirely.

Because feelings are hard. Living “in it” doesn’t feel right. The world feels off its axis, and the band-aid solutions seem to stem the bleeding while this pain takes its time to scar over.

This process is very different than I ever expected. The people that don’t have pets or haven’t lost a pet don’t entirely “get it”, while it feels like I’ve joined a club I didn’t know existed. People that have lost pets over the years that now can share with me how they really feel – their past loss impacts them more than they let on in their daily lives. An entire community that aren’t animal lovers that kept sending emails like nothing has happened, while I feel surrounded by more love, grace, and kindness than I ever expected, often from directions I never would have expected. I most appreciate the people that I know don’t understand, and yet meet me where I am anyways. Those are people you want in your corner when times get tough.

Different experiences than I ever would have expected seem to “trip the wire” that is letting the tears fall and the flood of feeling overwhelm me. Opening the fridge the first time to see his food that he never ate hurt, while putting away his meds that reminded me of his illness felt cathartic. I fear vacuuming because I now love finding his fur everywhere, when it used to be the bane of my existence. I walk around my home with his favorite toy to keep any connection with him close at any time of day.

No, there’s not one “right” way to grieve and this process won’t be linear. But I need to allow myself the time and space to heal in my own way. I’m in a club I never wanted to be a part of, but that’s the price of being surrounded by Lux’s sweet love for so many magical years.

Thank you for those that have given me the time and space to process – whether you “get it” or not. Thank you for kind notes, flowers, gifts, photos, videos, memories, invitations, and space. The world moves on and I know a new rhythm of life will take hold in time – but this groove I’m in may last longer than I ever expected. As one person in the pet loss support group I attended (yes, that’s a thing) said, “I took away his pain and gave it to me.” I’m just so blessed to have others that will meet me here so I’m not standing alone.

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