Another dimension of grief, I’ve learned, is being afraid to move forward. When we grieve, our loved one is front and center. But after that, will their memory fade into our past?

I don’t want to lose that immediate image of her. I do not want to turn away. How could I possibly want that?

This has been on my mind the past week. As each day passes, life edges just a tiny bit toward normal. Which beckons the question: If they aren’t here anymore, and I’m grieving a tiny bit less, are they fading? What is left of them?

red flowers

I’ve learned this brings a bit of guilt. Our love for them, our missing them, is tangible. So what happens to the memory of them as time goes by?

These and other questions niggle at me. I don’t want Abi to fade. I don’t want her memory to fade. What I want of course is to have her back, and naturally I can’t have that. So what I have is grief.

And when that lessens its hold on me, what do I have then? What is tangible that I can hold onto?

There are so many dimensions of grief, I suppose because there are so many dimensions of love.

purple flowers

Comforting Words From Healing & Loss: (March)

“I will welcome and care for the ways in which my loved one continues to live on in me.”

“Whereas previously our moods seemed simply sad with occasional patches of light, now we may find an unsettling variety in our feelings, as happy time seems engrossing and satisfying, and then we are plunged into sadness again. Perhaps we can learn to accept these mood swings, recognizing the reality of each, knowing light gives way to darkness, and darkness to light.”

“Even in my pain, I hold close to my heart the gift of my loved one’s life.”

“My heart lifts, in solidarity and longing, toward all who have suffered as I have. May we find and uphold one another.”

“May I accept the rhythms of grieving. I have enough to worry about without scolding myself that I’m still so vulnerable.”

***

These simple words from others who are grieving help to lift me up. For as I read about their own dimensions of sorrow, I know I am not alone.

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24 Comments

  1. I am so very sorry to hear about Abi. I know your grief all too well. I lost both of my furbabies 5 months apart. I just don’t understand why. My Beaux, the jackapoo was only 10 and my Shadow, the Standard Poodle was only 7. They both passed shortly after their birthdays and unexpectedly. It has only been 6 months and 1 month….and my heart is shattered. Hugs and prayers to you and Charlie.

  2. The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog
    Eugene O’Neill

    I, SILVERDENE EMBLEM O’NEILL (familiarly known to my family, friends, and acquaintances as Blemie), because the burden of my years and infirmities is heavy upon me, and I realize the end of my life is near, do hereby bury my last will and testament in the mind of my Master. He will not know it is there until after I am dead. Then, remembering me in his loneliness, he will suddenly know of this testament, and I ask him then to inscribe it as a memorial to me.
    I have little in the way of material things to leave. Dogs are wiser than men. They do not set great store upon things. They do not waste their days hoarding property. They do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value I have to bequeath except my love and my faith. These I leave to all those who have loved me, to my Master and Mistress, who I know will mourn me most, to Freeman who has been so good to me, to Cyn and Roy and Willie and Naomi and — But if I should list all those who have loved me, it would force my Master to write a book. Perhaps it is vain of me to boast when I am so near death, which returns all beasts and vanities to dust, but I have always been an extremely lovable dog.

    I ask my Master and Mistress to remember me always, but not to grieve for me too long. In my life I have tried to be a comfort to them in time of sorrow, and a reason for added joy in their happiness. It is painful for me to think that even in death I should cause them pain. Let them remember that while no dog has ever had a happier life (and this I owe to their love and care for me), now that I have grown blind and deaf and lame, and even my sense of smell fails me so that a rabbit could be right under my nose and I might not know, my pride has sunk to a sick, bewildered humiliation. I feel life is taunting me with having over-lingered my welcome. It is time I said good-bye, before I become too sick a burden on myself and on those who love me. It will be sorrow to leave them, but not a sorrow to die. Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows? I would like to believe with those of my fellow Dalmatians who are devout Mohammedans, that there is a Paradise where one is always young and full-bladdered; where all the day one dillies and dallies with an amorous multitude of houris, beautifully spotted; where jack rabbits that run fast but not too fast (like the houris) are as the sands of the desert; where each blissful hour is mealtime; where in long evenings there are a million fireplaces with logs forever burning, and one curls oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams, remembering the old brave days on earth, and the love of one’s Master and Mistress.

    I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to expect. But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleep in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all, this is best.

    One last request I earnestly make. I have heard my Mistress say, “When Blemie dies we must never have another dog. I love him so much I could never love another one.” Now I would ask her, for love of me, to have another. It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again. What I would like to feel is that, having once had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog! I have never had a narrow jealous spirit. I have always held that most dogs are good (and one cat, the black one I have permitted to share the living room rug during the evenings, whose affection I have tolerated in a kindly spirit, and in rare sentimental moods, even reciprocated a trifle). Some dogs, of course, are better than others. Dalmatians, naturally, as everyone knows, are best. So I suggest a Dalmatian as my successor. He can hardly be as well bred or as well mannered or as distinguished and handsome as I was in my prime. My Master and Mistress must not ask the impossible. But he will do his best, I am sure, and even his inevitable defects will help by comparison to keep my memory green. To him I bequeath my collar and leash and my overcoat and raincoat, made to order in 1929 at Hermes in Paris. He can never wear them with the distinction I did, walking around the Place Vendôme, or later along Park Avenue, all eyes fixed on me in admiration; but again I am sure he will do his utmost not to appear a mere gauche provincial dog. Here on the ranch, he may prove himself quite worthy of comparison, in some respects. He will, I presume, come closer to jack rabbits than I have been able to in recent years. And for all his faults, I hereby wish him the happiness I know will be his in my old home.

    One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: “Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved.” No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.

    Tao House, December 17th, 1940

  3. You won’t ever forget her, but in time, you will remember her fondly, instead of painfully. We were just talking about our little Bailey, who we lost 15 months ago, laughing over some of the funny things she did. It was good to reminisce…we still miss her so, but good memories are replacing the grief now. It takes a long time…it leaves such a hole in your life and heart…xo

  4. Whatever you are feeling and remembering now, if it seems to fade, it’s only because something else is coming along to take its place. What you are experiencing now seems like a normal part of the journey, even the guilt. Just try to feel the feelings, rather than run away from them or stuff them away. I’ve been amazed at how other people, including two different counselors, seem to be perfectly accepting when I say I feel angry, or sad, or confused. But when I say I feel guilty in connection with some aspect of my daughter’s death, they want to stomp that feeling flat right then and there. People just do not want to look guilt in eye, in themselves or in others. I just don’t get it. If it’s a feeling I’m having, seems like it should be examined to see where it’s coming from, and what to do about it. But people, even the therapist, said, “Oh, you don’t have a thing to feel guilty about.” Maybe that’s true, but, maybe not. How do they know? They just met me. For me, when people said, don’t feel guilty, it made me feel more guilty — I felt guilty for feeling guilty! So, I think it took longer than it needed to for me to work through the guilt. Finally at about the 20-month point after my daughter’s passing I quit going to any sort of therapist or support group. (I’d gone for four or five months at a time on about three different occasions to some kind of individual or group.) I just started asking myself where this feeling or that was coming from, including the guilt, and worked through some things on my own. I talked to my husband and prayed too — my husband and God were the two sets of ears that listened to me and didn’t hush me up! And coming to this blog and reading all of the posts and comments on grief has helped a lot — no one hushes me up here, either, and I hope we don’t make you feel hushed up.

  5. I cannot offer any wiser words than the others who replied before me. I lost my mom when I was 30 and she was 64, .just a week before Christmas The first mother’s day she was gone, I stopped dead in my tracks in the mall in front of the Hallmark store with a big sign outside. Since then I have felt her loss sharply on special occasions as she never saw my sister get married or knew her grandchildren..her granddaughter is getting married on Saturday. She never got to experience my sister get hearing implants that took away her deafness. I guess I think more about what she missed out on sometimes. On Saturday I will experience joy for my beautiful niece and sorrow for missing my wonderful mom…so I am just saying I understand the ups and downs….

    1. It’s like life just stopped and doesn’t know how to start up again. It’s been nearly two months and I’m still crying every day. At first I thought my behavior was odd, but in reading lots of stories here and elsewhere on the internet and people emailing me, I see that no, it really isn’t.

      1. Yes, we are all just human.

        Of course you still miss Abi every day. But you have also carried on with taking care of Charlie, fixing your door, getting acupuncture for yourself, reading, arranging your patio, reorganizing your kitchen….your new normal is just beginning.

        ((Hugs))

  6. I think the fear of letting go is a part of grieving too Brenda. This grief thing is so multi-faceted you never know which dimension of it will visit you on what day. I’m sure it is similar to when people do not want to put away a loved one’s belongings. It’s like trying to hold on to the last vestige of what you feel you have left of them.

    I’ve been in apathetic mode as of late. Don’t want to learn anything, don’t want to read anything. Don’t care one iota for words either because there’s only one thing I want – that which I can’t have.

    As an aside, my daughter is an ACP (Paramedic). These ones that deal with people in what may their most critical hour sometimes have a story or two to tell. One of my daughter’s co-workers who was present at the passing of a young man recently noticed an older woman standing outside of the ambulance at this man’s departure. You would know the general public cannot be close to these vehicles at a time like this so this was a odd occurence to begin with.

    The woman herself appeared as strange to the Paramedic who described her as simply quiet, with folded hands. The woman appeared as quickly as she disappeared. A simple turn of the girls head and the odd lady was gone. What is even stranger is the fact that when she mentioned this lady to other co-workers they all said they saw no such woman whatsoever.

    What may warm the hearts of some in this story that need a word or two of light today – the girl saw not only this odd woman of folded hands and quiet presence – but a dog too.

    1. That does warm my heart. I just went to lunch with my daughter. Had a good time. Was laughing and having fun. Then I came in and started crying. There is no rhyme or reason to any of this.

  7. Brenda,

    I offer this from the tragic unexpected loss of my Mother almost 12 years ago and also the heartbreaking loss of pets. You ask “Are they fading?” No. What was will always be. Not in the way we want it though. The sharpness of your grief is softening, but that doesn’t mean your memories will disappear. You ask “What is left?” Love. Always. You can’t take that away. I hope this helps you in some small way. It took me a long time to get to a better place. Loss hurts always, but it gets softer.

    Susan

    1. Just feels like I’m losing more than my sweet funny girl. I know that’s silly. But the more time that passes, I’m afraid she is fading away. Who said grief was reasonable?

  8. Oh Brenda, you will never lose your memory of that sweet little girl and one day you will laugh with joy, not tears, when you remember her funny antics or the way she would tilt her head when you talked to her. You won’t forget her; the pain simply won’t be as sharp as it is now. It is all part of the process of healing.
    I hope your daughter and nephew bring you a plate of BBQ to enjoy for the 4th. Enjoy the holiday.

    Carol and Molly

    1. My daughter just took me out for lunch. So I won’t see her tomorrow. I don’t think I could bear it if this pain stayed this sharp.

  9. I also choose to think my McKenna so very precious to me is in heaven enjoying the romping and playing with other Shiba’s like her. She was a different personality but oh so loving and important to me. I can’t have her pictures up and it has been 3 years. Each time I see her picture my heart drops and I feel such sad pain. So I must do what I need to do and that is move on…..and treat the pets I still have or ones to come with much love. This is just me and does not mean everyone will feel this way.

    1. A few days ago I put out a photo of Abi. I can’t look at it very much or I’m in tears. But I wanted her presence somewhere. We all grieve in different ways, don’t we?

  10. THE SHARP EDGES OF YOUR GRIEF WILL FADE TO A SOFTER MORE ,TOLERABLE FEELING, LIKE BEAUTIFUL SEA GLASS. YOU CAN STROKE THE MEMORIES WITHOUT THE SHARP JABS AND OVERWHELMING PAIN, ENJOY THE BEAUTY OF WHO SHE WAS, AND WHO SHE HAS BECOME.
    ALMOST 21 YRS. HAVE PASSED SINCE I LOST MY DAUGHTER, AND EVEN NOW I CAN RECALL THE HORRIBLE STABBING PAIN, BUT IT QUICKLY SUBSIDES, AND I CAN SMILE , ENJOYING ALL MY WONDERFUL MEMORIES.
    DON’T TRY TO RUSH YOUR JOURNEY THROUGH THE LOSS AND GRIEF, THERE IS A PURPOSE TO IT, NOT ONE WE CAN EXPLAIN OR UNDERSTAND BUT IT’S NEEDED.
    TO THIS DAY, A PART OF ME STILL GRIEVES FOR EVERY DOG THAT I HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO HAVE SHARE MY LIFE. I AM A BETTER PERSON FOR THE EXPERIENCE.

  11. Brenda,

    You are in the early stages and it is totally normal to feel this way. I can tell you that in the future there will be a day or two that you do not think of them with sadness but with a heart filled with the love that you shared. And as time goes on you will have a bad/sad day but for the most part although you miss Abbie your hear will not be filled with anguish. You do not need to feel guilty about moving on, after all we cannot stop time. I choose to think my sweet Munchen is in a better place and she is happy playing and waiting for me to arrive.

    Have a wonderful day and thank you for sharing these passages.

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