Grief is an emotion felt by us all. We don’t have a set of textbook reactions, we don’t follow a time frame and we don’t all feel grief about the same things, but grief is still grief, whatever form we experience it.
At the beginning of this week my mum and husband found my beloved cat. He had passed away underneath a rose bush after returning home about 6 weeks ago, very frail and thin. Why had had “returned home” is for another blog maybe, but it felt as though he knew he was at the end and wanted to be around us. I had had this animal since 2003. Found at a rescue farm, he had been dumped when he was a few weeks old. Together, we formed a bond. We’ve moved house together, we’ve moved cities together, and he was always a part of my changing life.
Whilst I knew that the grief was lurking around the corner as it was plain to see his time on this earth was limited, this week has felt very strange, which led me to explore my own thoughts about grief.
It seems that grief, to some, can only really be associated with humans. Yet when I think about what grief actually means to me, it is the emotion I attribute to losing something that means a lot to me. This could be many things, but in this instance it’s an animal.
When we think about the loss of something, we imagine the primary loss; the pain and upset. We remember how this thing made us feel. The thought of never seeing it again is unbearable. But when we look at grief, many times we are grieving for many things, we can experience primary and secondary loss, and this is sometimes what people don’t understand.
The primary loss I am feeling at the moment, is simply that I miss him. I miss his face and way he would just sit and look at me. I have the memories but know that’s now all I have. I miss his fierce nature and the companion he once was. Animals, to some people, have a unique relational quality. They love unconditionally. They won’t walk away if we get cross, they don’t judge, and we allow them to be there when we push others away. These feelings are held by our animals. This are my feelings around the primary loss I feel with him.
However, there is also secondary loss. As my life has changed so much since my twenties, he was the last connection I had to my previous life. He was pre husband, pre-Nottingham, pre kids, he watched me and followed me when I went into life on my own. He was the last link, a reminder of how far I’ve come. So, losing him, for a brief moment, planted me straight into this life and felt like I had severed ties to my old existence.
When we lose someone or something that means so much, some don’t realise the past that thing held. Some wonder how we can be so upset about losing something so small, but even the smallest things can hold the greatest value, but we don’t question when we mourn a celebrity, someone we have never met? Its what that meant in our eyes, how it impacted us, and the realisation new memories will never be made.
As we move through life, there will be certain factors that stay the same, that ground us. It might be a house, a job, maybe our status. Getting married can be such a joyous time for us, but as a woman changing our name can be a tough thing to do. We attribute our name to our identity. I know from experience; I felt a loss as my status changed from ‘student’ to ‘qualified’. A part of me had changed and at that moment, I questioned if I felt ready to let that go. But I had no choice. It shows the breadth that feelings of loss and grief can reach. When we lose a relationship, we grieve, not only the person that has gone, but the impact that has on our life. It could be structure, practicality or financial, all secondary, but still as important. Therefore, grief is a tangled web. Our human experience will dictate the level and the severity of what we feel.
As someone going through it, what is important is that we give our self the time we need and not to be afraid to seek support. It is a time to be kind and self-care is key. Allow emotion to flow, its OK to do that. Don’t be told to ‘hurry it up’, only you know what feels right and in time the pain doesn’t necessarily go away, but we learn to live with loss and see the beauty in the things we have….
In memory of Stoker