Our 14 year-old dog, Gilligan, passed away earlier this week. These are (some of) the words my heart needed to write about the process of saying good bye and what I have learned about grief from this experience.
Right up until the end, even though walking (especially in icy conditions) was extremely challenging, Gilly was first in line to meet the kids’ bus.
* * * * *
I didn’t understand until I walked through it.
When other people’s pets died and there was a big to-do.
Cards, condolences, tears, grief.
I didn’t quite get it.
It’s a dog, I would think to myself as I looked on from the sidelines.
(I’m not even going to write the thoughts that went through the younger me’s mind when it was a cat that was being grieved.)
I simply didn’t get it. I just didn’t understand.
I remember the sadness I felt when my childhood dog died. I remember sitting on the stairs, crying as I waited for my dad to come home from the vet, hoping she would bound out of the car behind him like she had for so many years. I remember the vivid dreams of being in a big field and seeing her running towards me that I had for years.
But this time was different.
This time I was part of the grown-up team that had to make the tough decisions. This time I am the mom holding space for my little ones to be with their emotions.
This time I am consciously giving myself space to feel the feelings, cry the tears, and grieve, yes grieve, the loss of our family dog, our companion for the past 14 years.
This time I get it.
Animals are sentient beings and when we share our homes and our lives with them, our energies and emotions become deeply intertwined.
For many of us, our pets are part of our family — and saying goodbye to a member of our family is a tremendous loss.
I am also finding (once again, as I did three years ago when my Auntie Rita passed away) that grieving one loss reopens past losses in my heart. It also stops time and shines a deeper level of awareness of my own mortality and the passage of time.
This time I am taking great comfort in words of condolences that are being expressed – by neighbors out walking their own dogs, by friends and family, and by kind-hearted souls I have never met but have connected with via this magical world of the Internet.
This time I understand just how important these words and the love that is behind them are and how deeply healing they can be.
And I am very grateful for time and space to grieve our loss.