I do denial. I do tortured anguish. I do distraction and avoidance quite well. But grief? Not so much. And after telling others that they need to give themselves time to properly grieve instead of pushing the emotions aside, I see that I’m a complete hypocrite. Not intentionally, of course, but it doesn’t really matter.
When my aunt died in 2006, there was so much else going on in my life that I just pushed the grief and sadness aside until I thought I could handle it better. Bad plan. It crept up on me when I least expected it. A scent. A song. A memory. Soon, there’d be tears running down my face and I’d have to get everything under control. I don’t like to cry. I don’t like for people to see me or hear me crying. I have never liked showing that kind of vulnerability because I have an inherent distrust of people. If they see you crying, they will find a way to use that to break you down even more.
So I have always held in my grief. Until yesterday.
When my ex-husband and I divorced, he kept the dog. It was just better for her and for him that way. It was horrible for me. I did not want to give her up, but the new living situation I was headed into would not have been good for her. I know I made the right decision, but it didn’t make it any easier. I still had a key to the house and could stop by whenever I wanted to see her. For a few months, I did. But it was just so hard to leave her each time. The visits became less frequent. It was hard to get over there without my partner at the time knowing. I never told her because she wouldn’t have understood. I couldn’t show my sadness or pain at losing my dog then, so I just pushed it aside and ignored it.
In 2010, my ex-husband emailed to tell me Angel had liver cancer and only a few months left. I was devastated. Again, I kept it all hidden and refused to acknowledge it. I went by to see her, thinking it would be the last time. She was so happy to see me when I walked through that door. For her, it was like I had never been gone. Dogs don’t forget. She ran for her favorite toy and dropped it in front of me. I threw it for her and she loped after it. I held her tight and sobbed into that soft white fur and told her how sorry I was for leaving her. I don’t know if she understood or not, but she licked the tears off my face, as if saying that it was ok. I walked out of there assuming she would be gone a few months later.
It’s now 2012. Yesterday, I got the news that she died five days before Christmas. Somehow, I knew something had happened. I knew she was still alive because my ex-husband and I use the same vet. They update me whenever I take Kami in for a visit. I saw them in November and asked if Angel had been in. They said she hadn’t and that she seemed to be doing great. Coming home from dinner one night, I almost drove by the house to see if she was in the front window. I didn’t. Three days later, she died.
I guess I thought my ex-husband would call me if it reached a point where it wouldn’t be long. I wanted to see her one last time. Now, I’ll just have to rely on my pictures and my memories. I’m mourning my dog for the third time. The grief is greater because I know she really is gone now. As I’m writing this, tears running down my cheeks and dripping on my laptop, my other dog is staring at me. She’s known for the last two days that something is wrong. I just keep giving her lots of hugs and kisses and she keeps crawling in my lap, trying to comfort me.
I don’t like this feeling. This grief. That’s why I’ve always pushed it aside. If I feel this horrible grieving my dog, I don’t want to think about what it will feel like grieving a parent or spouse or sibling. I know I should just let the feelings come and deal with them, but dammit my nose is sore and I can’t breathe. My head hurts, my eyes burn, and all I want to do is curl up with a bottle of something and stare at the walls. I’m going to cry. I might even yell a little. Then I’m going to distract myself with projects and this thing we call life until thinking about Angel doesn’t hurt as much.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an office to redecorate.