Maggie in Sweater I Made Her

I have been grieving the death of a beloved pet—a little white dog that shared her life with me for over 15 years. We began our journey together with her liking to  be held on my shoulder, and we ended our earthly journey together with her being held on my shoulder as she took her last breath.

I am no stranger to the grieving process, the stages, what helps, what doesn’t help, etc.  Intellectual understanding doesn’t make experiencing grief any easier. I’ve lost dogs before, but this death put me into a “downward tail spin.”  It has been 10 days no since she died, and yesterday was the first day I started feeling vaguely like myself. The day prior to that I had tried to determine how much dog food to order in a new “auto ship” and how often I should have the order shipped. I found I could not multiply 4 X 4—–then I had trouble determining how many months were in 60 days. My mind is a “PhD mind” that supposedly functions at a genius level, and it was totally humbling when it could not function. I’d known I was having trouble sleeping and concentrating, but my failure at doing even simple math was almost frightening.

I hear my deceased dog playing with my other dogs. I feel her brush against my leg. I wake up thinking she is trying to get my attention so I’ll pick her up. I’ve heard her bark as I drive my car into my garage….she was an avid contributor to the cacophony of sound my dogs make to welcome me home. I’ve even called out to her thinking she’s in another room.  Our pack is now three rather than four, but I still wait for the fourth dog to come running through the door when I let the dogs outside. I find myself still grabbing 4 treats rather than 3. The dog Maggie “mothered” cries in his sleep now, and I’m trying to give him extra attention.

In the midst of all this angst and depression I have found comforting prayers. I have had wonderful love and support from my friends and even from the company that ships my dog food. I have listened to conversations about how being broken triggers transformation and how there have to be opposing forces to exist and evolve—-for transformation and growth to occur. I feel broken, and I know my mind hanging onto the past when Maggie was physically here is in conflict with my simultaneously wanting to “move on” and refocus on a “mindful reality.” I don’t know that I’d say I am “transforming,” but I do think I am supposed to learn something from this that has yet to be revealed.

Yesterday I started mindfully noticing things again for the first time since her death. I noticed a turtle dove close by, I heard a variety of  birds singing, I looked up while driving and saw jet trails in the sky that formed a perfect cross—-and lowers blooming in almost every yard. I think that means I’m getting better. I don’t cry as often, and I am beginning to be able to redirect my thoughts to positive memories and gratitude. I can finally concentrate enough to “write about it”—-something experts seem to agree on as being instrumental for recovering from grief. I was able to get “my stuff together” for my annual pilgrimage to visit the income tax gurus.

So, what have I learned so far that might be helpful? It is okay to cry and be sad when you lose a close companion. It is okay to be preoccupied, not think straight, and have insomnia. This was my new normal, and once I accept it and allowed myself some self-nurturing things started to slowly improve. Forcing myself out of isolation and spending social time with friends was extremely important and helpful. And, yes, writing this has been helpful. But what is most helpful is being able to tell you that things do get better.