On Losing a Loved One & The 5 Stages of Grief
Today, our 5-year-old Shih Tzu, Boomer, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Those of you who have pets know how easily they become a part of the family, and Boomer was definitely a part of our family.
I have four kids and my biggest dread all day was telling them. How would I even tell them? How would they take it? My emotions have been all over the place today and I have cried enough that I should have filled my quota for the year. My kids are all sad and feel the depth of this loss, but I think my oldest daughter feels it the deepest. Boomer was young and we were sure we had many years left with him. She had planned to take him to college with her. She always considered him “her” dog, and while we all loved him, he really was. They had a special bond. She was the one I worried about telling the most, so I had her boyfriend with me when I picked her up to tell her, and that was exactly what she needed. He is awesome and a rock for her and he certainly was a rock for her today and I’ll always be thankful to him for that.
We have been in shock and numb most of today. I am sure tomorrow Bella’s and my face will be red and puffy, probably even into the day after that. We were just sitting at the table reminiscing and crying together when I just was struck with what to do to help this ache, and I realized what I needed to do – blog. I’ve been avoiding email, facebook, twitter, and my blog all day, because I really didn’t want to deal with it and I didn’t feel like I could focus. I really still can’t focus on the business end of things – my mind is too preoccupied with the loss I feel and the pain I see in my children, but writing is catharctic. So, here I am, writing and sharing the pain and loss our family felt today, reaching out to my readers for support and to perhaps commiserate and share with one another what pets mean to us.
They say there is a very defined grieving process – the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I feel like I’ve felt all five at once at some point today, but I realize we will go through this more over the coming days.
When I first told the girls, they honestly didn’t believe me. Denial is first because it cushions the blow. We are in shock and not sure how to process what we are hearing. Denial is a natural state at this point.
Anger is inevitable, especially when it comes unexpectedly and when you feel a life was cut way too short, but it’ll happen even when we have a loss we’ve been preparing for. It’s inevitable. Having someone ripped from your life is painful and will make you angry. Be prepared for that. It’s natural and don’t feel guilty for it. Be angry. It’s a necessary part of grieving.
Bargaining can vary in how it affects each person and really depends on what the loss is about, whether it is a permanent or a potential temporary loss. Obviously, with a death this stage is going to be very different. I think back to when I first lost someone who was dear to me. I was five years old and it was my great-grandmother. I loved her so much and was closer to her (and my grandfather) than just about anyone else in the family. I love all of my family, don’t get me wrong, but you always have those special relationships, and mine with her was one of those extra special relationships. Even though I was only 5, I can still remember how soft her skin was and how she smelled (she was always using lotion and took excellent care of her skin). I am 39 and I can remember this like it was yesterday. Being as young as I was and not quite understanding the depth of what death meant, I kept begging and pleading with God to let me see her again. I felt like maybe if I was good enough he’d let me visit her. A while ago, my daughter mentioned wishing she had a djinn or a time machine – something that could bring those last final moments back to us so that we could treasure them more and hold onto the moment, because we just didn’t know they would be our last. However, that’s what is special about memories, and I think in time we’ll be blessed to have such great memories of him. We are certainly blessed to live in a digital age where we have an abundance of awesome pictures of him, something I wish I had more of with my Big Gran.
The realization that the loss is permanent and no amount of denial, anger, or bargaining will bring us what we lost or give us extra time or those lost moments is what brings on the inevitable depression. As sad and hurt as I feel now and as much as I’ve cried, I know the real depression hasn’t set in for me, and I know it certainly hasn’t for Bella and my other kids. It’ll hit hardest when we wake up in the morning some time in the future or come home and expect his derpy little smile and excitement to see us, and we’ll feel that crushing blow all over again. That is what depression feels like, I suppose – that crushing depth of loss that just feels like a black hole, but it comes at unexpected times.
The light at the end of the tunnel, however, is that going through these stages will bring us around to acceptance. While we will still feel pain and loss, it’s the moment where you realize that they aren’t suffering or in pain and, if you believe in a higher power, that they are in a better place, and I believe that without a doubt. I know he is in a better place. He was sick and in pain and he isn’t suffering. I do believe in heaven and, yes, I do believe dogs go to heaven. I can’t say I am at the place of acceptance, because the pain is raw and I know I have a lot more grieving to go through, but I can occasionally slow the tears and take a deep breath for a moment knowing that he isn’t suffering, and I know the pain will get easier as the days go by. Time is a a part of the fabric of our existence that I believe is a wonderful gift from God – it lays a map and foundation for our lives and memories and gives a definition and purpose to our existence and in the end the passing of time is incredibly healing. The pain fades with time, but we can still look back at those special moments and remember. Without time, how would we even process memory? It truly is an amazing blessing.
And this next little cartoon I found a while ago, but I remember thinking I could totally see our dogs doing this – waiting for us eagerly to join them in heaven!
I think I’m spent and don’t have much more I can say, but thank you. Thank you for reading/listening. I hope that maybe I was able to touch someone with what I wrote and through my need for catharsis perhaps helped another person that is struggling with grief right now, whether from the loss of a loved one or loss of a job and everything in between. Just remember, healing takes time and you can’t rush grief. Allow the stages to take place and realize it is natural and important and a process that we all must deal with to get to acceptance and resolution. And don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help. We are social creatures and were meant to interact and help one another.
Blessings to each of you!
~[hana-code-insert name=’end author sign’ /]