Image from Mindful.
I lost my best friend, my companion, my life-long dog this year.
To those who’ve never had pets, this may sound sad, but not debilitating — a loss less significant than many. For a while, I felt like I had no right to mourn as much as I have and do. I thought my grief was unwarranted, because there are many who’ve lost friends, family, spouses.
But that’s not true.
Grief is extremely personal, and chances are you, reader, have felt it. If so, you know how it lodges itself in the nooks and crannies of your body. It spreads, metastasizes, and hides in your throat, your stomach, your lungs. It’s heavy. You get used to the added weight, so much so that you might even forget it’s there and think it’s gone. But suddenly, out of nowhere, it shows its head, and you become painfully aware of its presence. Your body hurts almost as much as your soul, and you’re rendered immobile, frozen.
Grief doesn’t care who you’ve lost, whether a pet or a friend, it hurts just as much when there was love. I think of my dog every day, and I miss him. Some days, I can function almost like before. The grief’s weight is evenly distributed and for a moment, I can breathe. In times like these, I feel guilt over my pain. I tell myself there are others who have it worse. I undermine the pain that hides out inside me, and I belittle myself for its effects when I’m at my worst. But that’s not quite fair. Judging how you are at your worst when you’re doing well is never going to be a fair assessment.
Pain is pain. Grief is grief. Loss is loss. It doesn’t matter who you’ve lost.
People have different levels of attachment and connection with others. Whom you love in your life may not be whom I love in mine, and vice versa. Maybe you’ve never had a dog and you’re thinking, “All this pain over someone who can’t even talk?”
Even though we couldn’t communicate, I never felt so understood by anyone else. My dog saw me at my best and my worst. We grew up together. He taught me unconditional love. Our time together made me who I am today, and our memories, while now bittersweet, are treasures of value no one will ever understand, no matter how I describe them.
Don’t dismiss your pain.
Whomever you’ve lost mattered to you, made you who you are, and taught you something crucial about life. You’re allowed to grieve as much or as little as you deem necessary, and you’re allowed to have bad days. Don’t let anyone tell you that your mourning is invalid or that you’re exaggerating.
Your grief is valid. Your pain is valid. Your loss is valid.
Do you compare your losses to others’?