Of all the loving and supportive comments I received when my dog Ace died last year, a single negative comment stood out and burned:
“I can tell you’re not sad about Ace.”
In those words, this person criticized two of the most important things to me:
My love for my dog Ace.
Maybe you’ve experienced this, too. The feeling that you didn’t “properly” display your grief in public or on social media.
And that because of this, maybe you were not grieving in the “right” way or even grieving at all.
But how can you possibly express grief in an email, a blog post, a Facebook caption? And is it even right to try?
How could I have explained … that three days after my old dog died, my young dog ripped the tiniest corner off my dead dog’s empty bed, and that I fell to my knees and sobbed?
And how my young dog flipped over on his back, then, unsure of what he’d done but pretty sure he’d upset me. And how I cried into his fur, pressing all of my love for my old dog onto the shoulders of my young dog and how he was unprepared for this, unsure of how to be my rock yet, and how he wiggled and bit at my arm. And then I laughed.
Grief is not a visible glow or shadow, yet sometimes it is.
We all know this, that grief is random sometimes, unexplainable and unexpected, even when we expect it.
It’s how my cat Scout became so depressed after the loss of his companions (Ace and our cat Beamer died on the same day) that I worried I’d lose him too. And I would just hold him for a long time and together we processed our grief.
It’s how, even though Ace has been gone 11 months, and we’ve moved 1,300 miles since then, I still find his hair on me.
Little pieces of my actual dog. In our washing machine. On my blankets. In my car.
Though, less and less.
It’s how I somehow love my young dog Remy even more than I loved Ace, even though I do not want to love Remy more.
It’s how I miss having the most obedient dog in the group, and now I have the least. But that’s OK because I know I was lucky with the first and Ace was good enough to make up for the next 10 dogs and it’s OK if none are ever as good as Ace because of course … they never will be.
Grief lingers in the patterns I follow, how I’m doing the same things with Remy today that Ace and I did 10 years earlier. Agility classes. Teaching the same tricks. Hiking and backpacking on Easter weekend. Running and running and running …
These are the pieces of grief you cannot see or read but we all experience in our own ways. Through patterns, and, randomness.
It’s how I wondered, how I will I continue on without him?
And then, somehow, I did.