If you’ve read my previous post on grief you’ll know that I recently had to get my dog put down. My dog was my best friend. I didn’t realise just how much purpose she gave my life until she was taken away from me. The range of emotions I’ve felt while grieving has undoubtedly been the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, but it’s normal (at least that’s what people keep telling me). It’s really hard to accept that it’s normal when the people telling me this (and bless them for trying to support me) don’t know exactly what I’m feeling because I haven’t told them. I haven’t told them every single thought I’ve had. I want to share with you exactly what I’m feeling and thinking (or at least what I was thinking – more on that later) because I understand how hard and confusing grief can be, and maybe you’ll resonate with some of the thoughts and feelings I’m having and you really will know that it’s normal.
It’s not fair. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat alone crying to myself because it’s not fair. None of it is. It’s not fair that my dog was taken from me so soon. It’s not fair that my life completely changed over the course of one week and none of it was in my control. It’s not fair that I changed as a person and I’m never going to be that exact same person again. It’s not fair that I’m going to have bad days for the rest of my life. It’s not fair that I have to find a new normal because the normal that I know involves my dog. But the most heartbreaking thing I thought, it’s not fair that I’m being punished for loving something. I don’t have any answers for how to cope with these thoughts (I’m still working that part out) but if you’re feeling like it’s just not fair, that’s okay.
I mentioned above that it’s not fair that I’ll have bad days for the rest of my life and it’s not fair that I’ve changed, this is one of the hardest things I’m experiencing. This kind of grief hit me in the second week and I learnt that it’s related to secondary losses. Along with experiencing grief from losing a loved one, you also deal with grief from all the other losses. I felt a huge loss of identity. I’m no longer the girl with the dog. We’re not Natalie and Dallas anymore. At this moment, the last time I remember being truly happy was directly before I realised something was wrong with my dog. I love laughing, but it just doesn’t feel right at the moment. I’m taking time to find that happy girl again. But what I have learnt is that while I’ve changed, I’m going to come out of this stronger, and eventually I’ll be whole again. I’ve also learnt that I will have bad days forever but as time goes on I’ll have found better ways to cope with it.
A good coping technique is to use your support network but I sometimes find this difficult as I’m often overcome with a feeling of absolute selfishness. Asking people to take time out their day or complete a task for me is so foreign to me and incredibly difficult. But to be completely honest, if anyone thinks you’re selfish for asking for help, you really don’t need that kind of negativity in your life, especially while you’re grieving.
The most overwhelming feeling I have is yearning. I miss my dog every single day. But I’m learning that I don’t need to tell people that. I’ve found myself explaining too often that I miss my dog. When people ask me if I’m feeling better (which is a term I use very loosely at the moment) I worry that if I answer ‘yes’ they’ll think I’ve forgotten about my dog. This is not true. Nobody has questioned the love I have for my dog or how much I miss her and they never will. I’m trying to teach myself that even if they do, it won’t matter because I know how much I love and miss her. But I understand the need to justify yourself, and I especially understand that this will feel most necessary when you are talking about the future but you know what, if it helps you to explain that you still miss your loved one, just do it, it’s not hurting anyone.
Now, combine this with the immense sadness, guilt, loneliness and confusion I’ve felt and I have been a big ol’ ball of mess. It took me a while to realise that the best way for me to cope with grief is to learn the theories behind grief and apply it to my life – so that’s what I did. I started listening to an amazing podcast called ‘What’s Your Grief’. Honestly, I cannot recommend it enough.
I’ll be doing a few more blog posts on what I’ve learnt about grief so I hope you’ll share these with anyone you feel might need a read. I really just want anyone else experiencing grief (especially those experiencing it for the first time like me) to understand that when people say it’s normal, it really is. Not everyone’s grief is the same but I’m sure that whatever you’re feeling, there is someone else feeling it to.
If you feel like you’re going crazy and your whole world is falling apart, I’m here.