The Timeline for Grieving is Wack
You haven’t put her bowls away, yet. Her leash is still hanging by the back door.
You come home from work and instantly twist to the side when you walk in, expecting her big, loafy self to come barreling at you.
But she doesn’t.
You’re still doing the dance but you’ve lost your partner.
Her fur is still on your couch, your bed. Then you remember you’ve got to cancel her standing appointment with the groomer.
And that’s when you break.
And it’s only been a day.
I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t ever go away. It’ll be less painful as each day passes, but it’s always going to be painful. And there’ll always be a reminder.
Right now, it isn't going to matter to you that I’ve been through this a few times. But I can tell you a lot of things — a thoughtful blend of gems I was told when I didn’t want to hear it, plus things I’ve learned.
I can tell you that the second time (unexpected) hit just as hard as the first (expected). Then, there was the third. My sweet girl who I can’t even allude to here without the threat of tears.
This summer marks my second year without her.
I can tell you that I was horrified, even angered, when people suggested I drown my sorrows by rescuing a new pet.
Seriously...? What an awful suggestion! I don’t even think I have to get in to WHY that’s the last thing I wanted to hear. I’m sure you’re with me on this.
You probably already know what the 5 stages of grief are, too. You might be sick of hearing about them, even. But I had a different experience with them.
Denial, Anger, Bartering, Depression, and Acceptance...
For me, they didn’t happen in stages. There was no particular order.
Sometimes they snuck up on me, hand in hand. Other times, they teamed up to row against me like a stormfront.
And other times, like the middle of the night or in the middle of work, one would slink up by itself to whisper in my ear.
Understand that these are NOT 5 steps to boxing up your feelings because you feel like you have to, or someone’s made you feel like you should.
They’re just meant to remind you that every feeling you’re having, during every minute since you lost her, is absolutely 100% valid.
Interestingly enough, I did wind up rescuing after my first guy left for the Rainbow Bridge. It’d been a year or so. It just kind of happened.
Maybe it was a message from my TZ-boy. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for a good sob story attached to a cute, fuzzy face.
Either way, it wasn’t the angst I was expecting. I didn’t get shoulder-checked by guilt while cuddling the new girl.
She wasn’t a replacement, but life was less lonely.
I haven’t adopted another animal since my Haiti-girl, though. Yes, that’s how we spelled her name — “Haydee” wouldn’t fit on the tag we chose, and it was perfect for her collar, which looked SO choice against her sleek, black fur.
What a nice memory, watching her strut around when we first put it on…
Oh, let me get back on track.
So… what can you do?
You can channel these feelings into work or physical activity. If you enjoy art or writing, use it as a way to cleanse your mind and heart. There are so many unique ways to memorialize your pet floating around Facebook alone:
A plant in his trusty food or water bowl, with his collar around it. Rainbow Bridge Hearts can create a stunning, colorful glass orb (or heart) for you, swirled with her ashes.
There’s nothing wrong with the traditional route, either. When we lost my husband’s Big Derp, he took to building a nice, sturdy box — instantly, and by himself. It was fall in Michigan, which is to say it was cold, wet, and miserable. But for him it was something he needed to do to get through that afternoon.
You see, we’d expected to bring him home, just... not like that.
When it came time to bury Jules, we did that part together as a family. Night was rising. I had a miniature stone bird bath I wasn’t sure what to do with — literally, it’s only 6 inches tall and the bowl is 3 inches around.
I wound up grabbing a glittery, glass jar with a solar panel as its lid. Until then it sat on our garden ledge with no purpose. Now, Jules’ resting place is lit up nearly every night.
Facebook memories can make me laugh and cry all at once, whenever I see those furry faces turn up from years before.
This’ll happen to you, too. For me, I find it comforting, even with grief tugging at my guts. I hope that you do, too.
The feelings will build up again because, honestly, that’s what grief does. Remind yourself that you’re not on ANYONE’S timeline. Timelines don’t exist with things like this.
I’m so sorry that you’ve become a part of this club. But what I can tell you is you’re not alone. Lean on your family. Talk to your friends — especially if they’ve been through it.
Pet groups on Facebook or other forums online are great places to connect with…
And, if you feel compelled to share your story below, please do. We're here to listen.