Grief is a fascinating experience. I have felt it several times in all its intensity but never with the death of a deeply loved and intensely close being. I went through the ups and downs of my daughter’s failing health, lung transplant and cancer. We came close to losing her, but we didn’t and still haven’t. She’s doing really well! I have been grieving the mortality of my dad as his health has been failing significantly in the last few months, but he’s still here and I get to have sweet special moments with him.
My current grief is a result of my tiny seven pound dog being snatched out of our yard about two weeks ago most likely by a coyote. There have been sightings of a mountain lion in our area but we didn’t see the creature only its paw prints in the mud near our fence and on the top rail of our fence. Whether coyote or mountain lion, it leaped from the field next to our house right into our yard and decided to take Maya. We were spared the gruesome remains of her but there was plenty of evidence to indicate she had been mortally wounded and removed.
It was a normal morning. I let her off the bed onto the floor (she was too tiny to jump), and she promptly headed outside to go to the bathroom. That’s all she ever did in the morning. Just a quick trip out and right back in. She has been doing this routine for the eight years we have lived in this house and never had a problem. But on this day, she didn’t come back in. When I went to look for her, she was gone. Vanished. I had no idea at that moment what had happened to her.
As the details came together, I was heartbroken. I sobbed and sobbed for the first two days. I was useless. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I got a warning for speeding. I told the officer I wasn’t paying attention to my speed only thinking about the death of my dog…I guess my authentic tears really got to him. He said he had to walk away before he started crying, too. He was sweet. That was no excuse for speeding, and I owned that I was being unsafe. I decided I better limit my driving for a few days and when I did drive I had to intently focus.
I thought about her tragic death which brought on heaving sobs. At first I was just really sad, then I moved to beating myself up for not going outside with her. If I had been there maybe I could have shooed away the animal. Then I moved to being mad at the circumstances because I just want my dog back. I want her to be curled up on the couch, taking all of about a 10 inch radius of space. I want her cute little face to look inquisitively at me while I ask her questions or talk to her. I want her company on my walks and I don’t want to have to go through the trouble of deciding if I want another dog (do not read that as I want someone to surprise me with a puppy! No, no, no!).
I am now deathly afraid to walk out on my deck at night because I’m literally gripped with fear that something is out there looking for something to devour. I don’t feel safe. When I go on walks, I am looking around, certain I’m going to get attacked. I never worried about these things before. I thought about it at times because we live in an area where coyotes live, too but I was never afraid of running into one. I’m only 12 days into this particular grief process and I realize that most of what I’m going through is normal, but when you’re going through it, it doesn’t feel normal!
The best thing I can do for myself is bring others into my grieving, which I have done. I am also allowing myself to feel all the emotions that come up. I let the tears fall. I notice the fear and understand why it is there. I feel the anger and get why I would be mad. As time is moving on, I’m noticing the intensity of the emotions is dissipating. I can focus on tasks again (including driving!) and I’m accepting reality, well, sort of.
It’s interesting to grieve the untimely and tragic death of a pet. I did not expect the intensity to be like this. My husband’s uncle died last week. I was sad for him and his family but he wasn’t in my life on a regular basis. I had only known him for eight years and saw him briefly a handful of times. I felt more sad for others in that situation than myself. My dog has been a constant companion. She adored me. I was definitely her favorite and everyone knew it. I’m realizing now how much I bonded with her. Our bonds can be with skin or fur…and the loss of either can be painful. I also believe we learn to connect with others more deeply when we are willing to connect with our grief.