In my previous post I talk about being an emotionally processing badass. That it takes courage and strength to sit with your emotions and not pretend everything is ok. I suffered a great loss last week. My beloved dog Juliet was killed by another dog. It was devastating, unexpected and traumatic. I didn’t see it happen, but I did find her little body.
I knelt beside her little body and cried my heart out. Then super plan mode came over me. I called the vet to figure out if I could bring her there to get cremated. I called the owner of the property as I needed him to come and see what his dog had done (this happened on farm acreage so he was over in another field, and his dog had strayed away). He said he would be there in 10 min. So as I waited I called my parents to tell them and have someone to talk to while I sat in a field with my deceased dog and held her paw.
The owner was more than understanding and shared in my grief. He had his dog put down that day after he confirmed it was him who had done it and paid for my dog’s cremation.
After I handed over my little baby to the vet tech my world stopped. Nothing else mattered. The pain was paralyzing. I went to bed. And I stayed there. My eyes were swollen from the crying. I couldn’t stop picturing finding her in the field.
The next day I made an emergency appointment with my therapist. I also cancelled my work trip for that week and cleared my schedule so I could stay home for a few days. Then I went back to bed.
In this extreme grief the therapy session was not what I had expected. In re-visiting the traumatic event we went very slowly and incorporated all aspects of it including smell, sounds, type of weather and my thoughts and emotions. In the hour we had we didn’t even make it to me finding her. We focused on my breath. I stood up so that I could wiggle my toes and ground myself. It was important to bring myself back into my body while I was remembering the details of the event.
It made me more aware that my breath would become more shallow as I started to remember. My heart would tighten and I would start to feel light headed. Wiggling my toes and being aware of my breathe brought me back to the moment.
I also learned my heart has a huge capacity for grief but that my body would also know when it was too much. It would provide moments of numbness. I felt like my body knew how much I could take and would provide sweet numbing relief when necessary.
We all know that grief is a process. Some days are better than others. Grief can make others uncomfortable. It is such a raw emotion. Condolences are always appreciated but after the social niceties often people don’t know what to say. And while I returned to work after only 3 days at home I wasn’t going to smile and pretend nothing had happened. I was showing up as I was.
But in this raw grief I also reached out. While my usual solution was to hide, heal and then return to the world that had not served me well in the past. That method left me feeling isolated. I texted my close friends. I let them know I was hurting. And they came out to support. We shared stories about Juliet. We went to the site where I found her and left flowers. We toasted her. We laughed, cried and shared. During such a difficult time I felt supported, loved and grateful.
I have given myself permission to take as long as I need. That there is no timeline, no magic potion or solution that will ease the hurt. I will honor these feelings of grief. She was my closest companion for 10.5 years. It is a huge hole in my life. I am so grateful I had those 10.5 years and that amazing bond. I was her human. I feel lucky that she chose me. In honoring my pain and time of healing I honor our relationship. I will also accept and love the feelings of peace and normality as they return. Not aching with loss does not mean I don’t hold space for her memory and our special bond.