I struggled this month to come up with a topic for my blog. I found myself coming again and again to the topic of grief and loss. Nothing else seemed quite right, and considering that we’re going into the autumn and winter, perhaps it’s appropriate for this topic to come up now. We are entering the seasons of ending and darkness before we rejuvenate in the spring, and grief is a topic that, while not taboo in our culture, is still discussed too infrequently. And so I would like to share with you my recent experiences with grief and what I’ve learned.
I’ve never experienced a death in my life before. I’ve experienced losses of a different kind, but not death. My family has been fortunate. We’re all fairly healthy, and longevity run in our genes. So I find myself ill-equipped to handle the death of someone I’ve loved and cared for over many years.
I miss being woken in the morning by yells for breakfast. I find myself still calling out a goodbye when I leave the house and then remembering I’m talking to no one. I have difficulties sleeping because her presence isn’t there. The house feels lonelier and quieter without her voice, and I’m more aware of when I’m alone than before. She would crawl on my lap and “help” (i.e., get in the way) when I was working. She would comfort me when I was sad and she never failed to bring a smile to my face. My constant companion for eight years died on September 22.
Unfortunately, I found myself feeling guilty and ashamed because the death I was mourning was that of my cat. While my pet is beloved to me, to other people, she’s “just a cat.” While in the depths of my grief, I heard from multiple people that said grief is misplaced, because I was “just” grieving a cat. While I do not have any children, it feels to me like I have lost my child, and for others to dismiss my grief because I was mourning a cat felt offensive and hurtful. Those feelings were piled on top of the guilt I already felt because I’d had to make the decision to put my cat down, and that decision broke my heart.
But when I related these feelings and how a few people had reacted, a client of mine gave me some very good advice. She said, “Grief is grief, and there’s no timeline for grief.” That was exactly what I needed to hear. Grief is grief, regardless of whether it’s for a person, a pet, or even a situation. We all process grief in different ways, and that grief may last for a few weeks or it may last for years.
Hearing those words helped me to allow myself to feel the grief without the guilt or shame. My grief is my own, and I must process it in the way that’s best for me. I found ways to give myself touchstones to get through the day. In the immediate aftermath, I found myself unable to put down one of her favorite toys. I carried it around in my pocket while at home. My cat used to follow me around the house, and carrying her toy made it feel like she still was. Then I was able to set that aside when the immediate sorrow has lessened and I no longer felt like I needed that particular reminder. Later, I found an Etsy shop that makes affordable custom rings, and their specialty is slim rings with the name of your pet and a paw print stamped onto it. So I bought a ring with my cat’s name. It was the perfect thing I needed to allow my grief to settle.
I still have moments when I feel that grief crashing into me, but it’s getting easier, and the pain is less. My heart will always be scarred for her, but I have ways now that I feel like I will always remember the love and comfort she gave me over eight years, and so the healing has begun.
What has helped you move through loss and grief?
So many people I know have lately been affected by death, whether it’s the death of beloved pets or family members. My good friend’s aging dog died of a heart attack. Two friends I know have had family members succumb to serious illnesses. While volunteering this past week, a phone call came in for the staff with the news that a coworker had passed the previous day.
Each piece of news that comes my way feels like another pebble dropping into the bucket of grief and it grows heavier with the collective sorrow those in my circle are feeling.
If you are experiencing grief or loss, I encourage you to reach out to friends and loved ones. You are not a burden, and your grief is not a burden. The only way out is through.
Grief is grief, and there is no timeline for grief.
Today’s blog is written by one of our alliance partners, Kira Tregoning. Kira is the owner and founder of Maia Media Management, a local social media business. She offers social media management, consultations, and trainings, as well as video services, proofreading, editing, and manuscript critique services. Kira is also a published author with two fantasy novels available on Amazon and more on the way. Learn more about her at www.kiratregoning.com