The outcome depends on what you fill the time with ~ or rather that’s my theory. Sometimes after life has dealt us a particularly bad hand it’s difficult to get up, shake yourself off and carry on. The pain of losing a loved one, a failed relationship, loss of a wonderful job all take an emotional toll, often on a psyche that’s been bruised once too often. Each of us processes grief differently; I’m not sure there is a “correct” way. Using the death of a much beloved pet as an example, I know people who raised a dog since it was a young pup, making her a part of their family. Their “human” kid and their “fur” kid grow up together. Play time was filled with squeals of fun from both and many times the dog accompanied the family on vacation. Years passed and one autumn day last the now grown child, college bound, left the family home after tears and hugs were shared with his parents along with tears, hugs and wet kisses with his furry best friend. At first the dog’s slow pace was attributed to melancholy from her “kid’s” absence. As autumn waned and winter approached the aging dog didn’t shake what her owners initially thought was sadness. Their once frisky 2 month old puppy was now approaching 14 so they scheduled a comprehensive examination with her trusted veterinarian. After a battery of diagnostic testing they were stunned to learn their “girl” has advanced canine lymphoma (Stage 5) and at best might gain a few extra months with chemo. They agonized and even argued with each other about telling their son. Ultimately they did not because of concern he’d come home early to see her and the ramifications it could have on his semester finals. They devised a treatment plan with their vet which was palliative, addressing the pain and stress of illness while providing as much quality to her life as possible. When the son arrived home for Thanksgiving he was shocked, angry then heartbroken to see his faithful companion lying on the sofa, a fraction of her former self. Two weeks after he reluctantly returned to college the old girl passed with the help of her veterinarian. Here’s the tricky part; how does one handle the loss of a beloved dog after sharing your life with her for 14 years? The couple in my post chose to find a new dog the same day. They reasoned that a puppy would fill the void created by the old girls death and give the son a surprise when he came home for winter holiday. They called him to say the old girl was free of pain but never mentioned the new family member. In this particular case it created a terrible rift when their son arrived home for the holiday. He had no anger at the new puppy, only with his parents. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. While immediately replacing a deceased pet with a new one might work for some, it could be a recipe for disaster for another. And once again I beg the question; does time heal all wounds? Does the instant family addition negate the years of love one shared with a companion animal? Does it signify a vacant heart or rather, one that is so shattered it craves puppy kisses from a new friend?
This is Callie Ann, my beautiful companion, best friend, protector and muse for 10 years. I mourned her loss in November 2015 the polar opposite of the family above, opting to ride the “Crazy Train of Grief” yet we both loved our girls without reservation. Their deaths created scars which burned into our very souls, but we handled the time following our losses very differently. Does that mean their wounds were healed in one day or that they loved their dog less? Somehow I doubt it. They just chose a different healing process than me. My emotional scars are deep but are also a testament to the unconditional love I shared with a sweet black dog and I am slowly learning to embrace them because they define who I am.
Today also marks 2 months since my dear friend put a gun to his head and committed suicide. I’ve tried to keep busy because to dwell on the “why” is a moot point as I cannot change the outcome. Time has passed slowly but I am coming to accept the loss. I’ve had a few people comment about his possible reasons but I chose not to engage, even with one individual who diagnosed my late friend as “prone to suicide” because of his lifestyle. He lived in a sweet cabin set back in the woods for 20 years. By choice ~ his. An environment that was perfect for someone who loved nature the way he did, rife with animals in their natural element, stately trees and an abundance of sounds. Like me, my friend was a voracious reader but the similarity stopped there because he enjoyed fantasy and paranormal whereas I prefer my reading a bit more grounded. I bought him a series of books about a shapeshifter which he enjoyed immensely. In one of the books he found a quote by the author that he shared. I was dumbstruck when I heard it for it could have been written by him instead of author Patricia Briggs in her book “River Marked”:
“All life is rife with possibilities. Seeds have possibilities, but all their tomorrows are caught by the patterning of their life cycle. Animals have possibilities that are greater than that of a fir tree or a blade of grass. Still, though, for most animals, the pattern of instinct, the patterns of their lives, are very strong. Humanity has a far greater range of possibilities, especially the very young. Who will children grow up to be? Who will they marry, what will they believe, what will they create? Creation is a very powerful seed of possibility.”
Those words so accurately sum up my late friend. He had many losses in his life, many wounds that were so deep that they were incapable of closing. Yet he had a remarkable quest for knowledge, engaging in meaningful conversation/readings and pondering the future and all the possibilities it held. Yes he had deep, gouging scars which perhaps time did NOT heal, yet he used the years to his advantage; to question and learn ~ constantly growing. If only he could have seen that but his past clouded his vision. I had terrible guilt following his suicide, that in some way I’d failed him. Time has relieved me of that burden and I no longer accept the onus of his actions yet time has not brought me the healing I still need to move forward. It will, just not yet.
To be continued…