Grief, It’s a Journey
Sixteen years ago I was standing, naked (as one does) save for a paper dressing gown, in my dermatologist’s office. She was telling me how she had just put her beloved dog to sleep, after thirteen years together, which was a pretty good lifespan for a dog of his size.
“How the hell can you stand the pain?” I asked, since it was obvious she was in an enormous amount of grief.
“It’s a journey,” she replied, wiping her eyes.
She didn’t want to talk about it anymore, I could tell. She had said she didn’t think she would get another dog. She loved them too hard, and when this dog left her it had damn near killed her.
I understood what she meant. I felt sympathy for her and compassion. I wanted to help alleviate that pain, but there was nothing I could do.
Now, faced with my dog’s beloved passing, I understand her pain in a different, bone-deep way. I feel what she felt. Empathy. I feel every jagged moment, every instance of denial, every hope and shattered hope.
Bailey is still with us. True, he sleeps most of the day and doesn’t eat until evening, whereas he used to eat pretty much any moment in the day when you’d offer him food. And getting his medications into him is a daily herculean feat.
No one can suss out a pill, or a half a pill, or a quarter pill, in a piece of roast beef like Bailey. What other things have we tried? Peanut butter, liverwurst, chicken, tuna, cheese, Pill Pockets, hotdogs, salmon, steak, banana, hard-boiled egg, bacon, mac & cheese, cottage cheese,￼hamburger, ricotta, apple, breakfast sausage…, and so he often doesn’t get all the meds he should get. I can’t ‘pill’ him (holding open his jaws and stuffing the pill down his throat) because he thrashes like a fiend and would take off a finger. Not that he doesn’t love me, it’s just that he’s a rescue and has had such horrible experiences with vets that some things just freak him out.
I worry about My Best Beloved as well. He is a Good Man who always wants to help, and almost all the time he figures out ways to improve a bad situation. In this case, however, there is nothing he can do and he knows it. He does not like it at
You can’t prepare for this kind of grief. And yes, I know it’s “just a dog.” To us, however, this dog is pure love incarnate.
The journey, as my dermatologist friend knew, is one way. And everyone travels it at least once during the course of a life.
I remember what my friend, Sr. Rita, said when I asked her how she was coping with her breast cancer. “It invites me to understand more deeply what others experience: anxiety, pain, worry, the closer experience of death. Now, I’ll be better able to help others going through it.” Yeah, she’s pretty amazing.
So My Best Beloved, the Rescuepoo, and I are on a journey, and at the end of it, we will have to say goodbye to this sweet boy. Then, our journey will continue without him, at least in a physical sense. I said to My Best Beloved last night, “We’ll get through this, but man, it’s going to be awful.” It will be, but as Sr. Rita said, there is also a gift in the midst of the grief: to understand more deeply the pain of others, to journey farther into the human experience, and perhaps, one day, even be able to help someone else through it.
Right now, however, it is a perfect spring day. All three of us are going to head out into the garden and delight in the world, and in each other, and we wish you a perfect, glorious day, too.
Dear Lauren, I’ve been there and I understand what you’re going through. So beautifully said, thank you. Diana Simmons
Thanks very much, Diana. We all walk the road, don’t we?
We lost our beloved girl in early May. Grief is the price we pay for love. I am keeping all three of you in my thoughts.
Thank you, Karen. I’m so sorry for your pain.
Just like you say in this post, sometimes in life there’s nothing we can do about certain things. I can relate to what you’ve written and what you’re going through. Thanks for sharing, I think you’ve expressed the journey very well. Wishing you, your best beloved, and Bailey many more good days together, Joseph
Thank you, Joseph.
Sending love. You understood and helped me so much when I lost my Roshko a few years agio. Just a dog. Just pure unconditional love. I feel your pain. I am here. Sending ❤️.
Thank you, dear Eva.
Hello Lauren, sorry to hear you are going through this gut-wrenching experience. It is evident the love you’ve had together, and still have. I had to laugh out loud at your efforts to get Bailey to take a pill, what a wide range of pill delivery vehicles, so creative! Wishing you all the best, and keep us posted in your blog on how things are going. warmly, Cynthia Moore
Thanks so much for your good wishes, Cynthia. We’ve now moved on to pastrami and Cabot’s Sharp Spreadable Cheddar. Hit and miss, but we go on!
I know that grief and worse than I imagined it would be. Our sweet Roo flew over the rainbow bridge yesterday morning vet assisted, relaxed and serene here at home, in her soft cosy bed with us huddled around her, stroking blessings of our love. What a wonderful 14.5 years – so grateful she helped me through cancer recovery and husbands. Our son is heartbroken. I think of this quote by Anne C. Klein, “Our mind wanders incessantly, but our body and senses are always in the present. To investigate our embodied experience is to investigate the living present”. I’m trying to live present in a broken kind of way – failing. Warmest , gentle wishes for your way forward.
Oh, Jan, I’m so sorry to hear about Roo. I know you know there could be no better death for a beloved pet. She passed knowing how very loved she was. And of course your son is heartbroken. Please give him a big hug for me.
I love that Anne C. Klein quote. Thank you.
And, forgive me, but is this the Jan Barnes I knew in Paris?
Yes Lauren – love to you and R.
As with your other essays, this really strikes a chord with me. Thanks for being so present and so able to express your feelings. Wishing you, your best beloved and your rescuepoo all the best, Christina
Thanks very much, Christina.
Our dear Hurley is getting up there and showing real signs of slowing down. Some days she will simply climb into my arms like an infant and we will sit for as long as she likes with her head on my chest. During these times I’ve lately been imagining holding her through her last moments. Sounds morbid but we (aspiring) Stoic’s are taught to practice uncomfortable situations for a few minutes each day to help us better appreciate the present moment as well as prepare us to handle challenges to come. I have yet to get through one of these sessions without feeling my eyes sting.