As I shared recently, my beloved 16-year-old beagle passed away. I was heartbroken all that day and spent many hours crying and grieving his loss. By the next day, I was okay. In fact, I was even able to appreciate the ways in which my life was easier, such as not having to administer two pain medications and carry the dog in and out to use the bathroom all day.
Some people might assume that I did not love this dog because I adjusted to life without him so quickly, but that simply is not true. I raised him from an eight-week-old puppy. As with the book Marley and Me, his life story is the story of my family. My husband and I were newlyweds when we adopted this dog, and so many of my memories of my son are intertwined with memories of this dog. Yes, I loved him.
So, how can I adjust so quickly to his passing? I think this about resiliency, not a lack of caring. Many people believe that if they spend years in mourning after a loved one passes away, refusing to adjust to a life without the loved one, they are somehow proving the depth of their love. Instead, I believe this is just a lack of resiliency and inability/refusal to adjust to a new reality.
Those of us who survived child abuse also survived many losses. We learned at a young age that loss was a part of life – the loss of innocence, safety, loving relationships, etc. My life has been filled with loss, so why is it so shocking that I am resilient and can adjust quickly when I experience a loss?
I have only experienced two losses that I did not recover from quickly. The first was the death of my father, although even then, I did not understand why I should struggle since he was rarely around. I have since recovered the flashbacks of my mother starting up the abuse again. So, my issue was not with adjusting to my father’s absence so much as to the lack of safety that resulted from his passing.
The other loss was that of infertility. The problem with infertility is that there is a monthly hope followed by a monthly loss. It was the emotional rollercoaster of the ups and downs that really got to me. Once I accepted my infertility as a permanent fixture in my life, I was able to grieve my infertility loss and heal that pain.
My mother-in-law passed away suddenly a few months ago. Hub took my strength as a sign of not caring or not loving deeply enough. The reality is that I have become resilient in my grief. I have no expectation of those that I love being in my life forever. We will eventually part, such as through growing apart, moving away, or one of us dying. That is just a reality of life. Therefore, when a loss happens, I am not “shocked” that life can be cruel. Instead, I try to appreciate the relationships I have in my life while they are in it, knowing that they are a gift for now rather than a fixture forever.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt