I know this is a very different blog post. Perhaps one that is more personal because it relates to grieving my beloved Izzy. She came into my life during a difficult time and has been my companion for the last ten years. Today, I have to give her the gift of saying goodbye so she can peacefully walk over the rainbow bridge. I have been on a rollercoaster of emotions between hearing her terminal cancer diagnosis (unexpected) and making the hard decision to end her life. I am angry and sad, I feel life is unfair, and I am scared of the loneliness that will exist without her. We often say, “Life always teaches us a lesson.”
However, the lesson could be more reachable and honest. My emotions are BIG, and I do not know what to do with them. How can I be in my home without my beloved Izzy greeting me at the door? How will I wake up every morning without a soft growl telling me it is time to get up? How will I know it is 5:00 pm and time for a snack when she is not here to do her delightful dance begging attention? How will I stop working when Izzy is not here to close it with her paw, letting me know I have had enough technology for the day? I thought she would be with me for a long time. Life had a different idea. Her absence is when the lessons of life make no sense to me. After all, I have grieved the loss of family before. Why do I need another message to learn from? I want to scream. I want a hug. I want someone to listen without asking questions. I want someone to tell me that I have made the best decision for Izzy. I want someone to give me the space to ask questions, live in doubt, and find peace. I want my friends to take care of me for a few days. I want a friend to pray, read a poem, and light a candle with me. I don’t want to be distracted by tactics to entertain me. I want to be left alone when I need to be. I want people around me to be there for me when I ask them to lend a hand. It may sound selfish, but I am permitting myself to grieve.
What I know:
Please don’t ask questions. It makes me doubt my emotions, and it is tiring to repeat the story over and over. It is like opening a wound that won’t stop bleeding.
Instead, be present and willing to listen without offering an opinion.
Please don’t tell me your story of losing a loved one. I want to be there for you, but now I can only grieve my loss, and I don’t know how to respond or care for you.
Instead, leave your story for another day. Once again, be present to hear my story.
Please don’t tell me that I will get another pet soon. My emotions are too raw even to consider it.
Instead, allow me time to grieve and feel what I must feel.
Please don’t tell me that you do not know what to say. It makes me want to take care of you when I lack energy.
Instead, send me a short text message telling me you care or a short poem about love and grief.
Please don’t impose your religious beliefs on me. You may believe that one day we will meet in heaven. I know that for now, there is a significant loss in my heart and that I won’t be able to hold my Izzy and play with her daily.
Instead, allow me to have my own, which may differ significantly from yours. Allow me to feel what I need without thinking about what may not be natural.
Please don’t distract me. I will not make the pain go away. It will only delay it.
Instead, spend time with me doing things we enjoy and allow me to cry when I have to.
These are the reasons I am writing this blog entry. We don’t always have to find a lesson in everything. Sometimes, we must just be present and feel the moment, as painful as it may be. The same is true for children. They are growing and learning to give meaning to the lifecycle. They may not always look for answers; instead, they may need to feel the BIG emotions of losing a loved one. We read books to them, we plant trees to remember a loved one, and we may use our spiritual beliefs to explain death and dying. They may need to be present with their feelings and emotions. They may want to be angry for a while. As adults, we must ask ourselves how we hold space for children to grieve and make meaning to a loss. How do we allow children to ask questions and give them answers they can comprehend? Especially when we don’t have the answers or can’t give meaning to a recent loss. Be authentic by being present and understanding. Distracting children from their pain will only prolong the grief. Allow them to play and revisit their feelings. Play helps them make meaning and allows them to explore their feelings. Play is a healthy outlet. When children are grieving is not the time to impose abstract lessons that are too complex to comprehend. Instead, it is time to hold space with grace and kindness.
Grieving is hard and exhausting work. When we adults learn to grieve and be kind to ourselves and each other, we may be more ready to support children when they are experiencing a loss in their life. For now, I need to take the time to feel and slowly heal.