Loss is one of those loaded words that has multiple meanings, anything from trivial to catastrophic; however, for survivors of sexual abuse and all that goes along with it, losses can often be incredibly weighty. For example, losing one’s keys is a nuisance, misplacing a book is annoying, losing one’s credit cards is certainly a cause for concern, loss of a job is traumatic and often impacts on others as well as oneself and loss of a loved one, for anybody, is probably one of the most difficult things for any human being to endure. For survivors, the feelings that accompany these losses can be more heightened than for those in the general population. For me, when I experience a significant loss, sometimes some of the old tapes emerge. Loss of a pet may feel similar to losing a family member or friend. That pet may actually be their “family,” the only living thing that can be trusted, the only living being to whom a survivor can safely share deep, raw emotions with.
There are no guarantees in this life and that certainly is true for when death arrives. But we learn, somewhere in our growth and development, that relationships matter and it’s hard to live when we lose another soul in our lives. For me, that constant has been dogs. I love them and would trust them implicitly with every aspect of my life. Over the years, I have derived much pleasure, comfort, humour and sadness from my pets, sadness only in the sense of when I lose them. Each time one of my furry friends goes to his or her “doggy heaven,” the period of grieving is agonizing. Each time their little souls soar towards that place in the next world, a piece of my heart goes with them. My sense of loss is profound and my grief feels unbearable. For me, the pain runs through my very core and in the midst of it, life after my friend’s death is so murky, so dark, so excruciating. These are the feelings I’ve experienced in the last two weeks.
We lost our dear little dog Spirit, an adorable papillon, who left us on August 2, 2013. The silence in the house is deafening, the tiny patter of claws on the hardwood is nowhere to be heard and his sweet, loving face is nowhere to be seen. We also lost him far too early which added salt to the wound. But, we human beings also loathe watching our loved ones suffer. Spirit was not living or enjoying his usual life and much as he tried so hard not to upset us with his illness, he was losing stamina and his zest for life. On the day before his death, Spirit was visibly uncomfortable, although the vet reckoned he was not in pain. He let us know, in a myriad of ways, that he couldn’t go on any longer and, finally, Spirit gave us permission to say good-bye.
Like very ill children who help us, the living, through this transition, our pets do the same. Our hearts and our minds play a huge tug of war with each other, but because our love is so deep for them, we know we need to let them go. If you believe, as I do, you will meet up with them sometime in the future. That’s the hook that keeps me going and if you are now, or have ever experienced the loss of a pet, hang on to that thought. Allow yourself to grieve. It takes as long as it takes; there’s no right or wrong way to mourn. Tune out to those who say “he’s only a dog or a cat,” or “he’s just an animal;” let the child in you cling to one of his/her toys or blankets, don’t be afraid to cry and speak to your pet if that helps. Just be authentic to your feelings.
“Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains un-awakened.
To All Our Friends & Family
May 24, 2004 – August 2, 2013
It is with such sad, broken hearts that we write to you about the passing of our special boy, our little papillon, Spirit. Our little guy was just over 9 years old but, since March of this year, he had been struggling to beat the ravages of a splenic tumour and he fought bravely for these past 4 ½ months. Each time the mass bled he lost some ground, but he never wanted us to know how badly he felt. He kept up with all his usual behaviours except eating. He was never one to eat much anyway, but in the end, even his adored cheese had to be rejected.
We will never forget his friendship, fun-loving spirit, his cheekiness, his perkiness, his loyalty, his extreme intelligence and, above all, his unconditional love and devotion to us, his two “old-Lady” girlfriends. Believe it or not, we already miss his barking!
To you who have not experienced this, we are so glad for you. To those who have known the love and devotion of an animal, we need say nothing else. To you who have never had a pet, we strongly encourage you to get one; they are the joys and blessings you’ve deprived yourselves of so far.
With our love,
Marian & Lynn