From above shot of an opened notebook and a pen laying right in the middle of it. The pages are blank, the pen is black.

How I process the loss of my Dog after 16 years of unconditional Love

We had to let our family dog go. She died of cancer, fuck*ng, assh*le cancer. That’s actually how most people reacted when I told them. “Ugh, that sh*t cancer!”, they said. Yes, she was sick, but she got quite old. “What an exceptional age for a dog!” is the other typical answer. She would have been sixteen in October. She would have… We could have… Phrases of “would” and “could” are circling in my head. I wish we would have had more time together. It doesn’t matter how old our furry best friends get, it’s just never enough time spent together. So what do you do when you lost that pet, that family member you have spent almost every waking minute with? You are grieving. But how does one survive that grief? I write letters to Amy, my best furry friend.

I never thought I would be capable to endure this. I knew that day would come when we have to say goodbye, but I wasn’t even facing it in my worst nightmares. I shut the door to that thought, I didn’t prepare. So facing the loss now, especially the physical loss of our beloved dog, seems like an impossible quest. At first, nothing made sense anymore. I had no motivation at all. Nothing made me happy. I would have given everything I possess, which isn’t much, just to have her back. I would go back in time, I would let Aliens abduct me, I would do anything possible and endure the worst and craziest things, just to have one more day with her. But I can’t. Our concept of time and space isn’t built like that and/or I don’t have the power to simply change it. I wish I had.

Somehow, we make it through – which doesn’t mean you will stop crying anytime soon

Sharing your feelings and pain can return a tiny feeling of relief. You are not alone out there. Millions of people and even animals too go through these feelings, they all know loss and the excruciating pain of it. Somehow, we will make it through – which doesn’t mean you will stop crying anytime soon. I share my loss in a Facebook group that has also helped us fighting other obstacles when our brave terrier girl was still alive. I talk about my sadness with everyone I feel comfortable around. Sometimes, that’s not enough. The first day without her, I had to wake up without her, start the day without her, try to go on without her. It was unbearable. It was like the pain was pulling on me, tearing me apart and if I was exploding from suffering. I was screaming and I was crying and there was no stopping.

So I went outside. I needed to breathe, I needed fresh air. I sat down on the top of the stairs beside our balcony. The wind was blowing through my face and I held my head high in the air. I thought of Amy and what she would use to do every time I carried her outside. I would stop and stand while holding her in my arms and she would hold her sweet little face up high in the sky. We would pause for a moment. Then, I could hear and feel her breathing, how she inhaled little pinches of air and all kinds of smell through her nose: grass, birds, worms, apples, cats, trees, flowers, the street outside the garden, the cars, other dogs… Remembering her gesture made me cry even more and I felt the biggest urge to communicate with her.

With every written word and every new sentence I felt a little better

Of course, I thought of her. I talked to her in my mind, but that just wasn’t enough, not at that moment. So I went inside and got my writing block and a pen I liked, walked back out again, sat down on top of the stairs and started writing “Dear Amy,…”. It was so easy. The words and the feelings flowed right through me and through my hand to the pen and onto the paper. Slowly, and with every written word and every new sentence I felt a little better. Sometimes, when I asked a question it seemed like she was communicating to me through the wind that has turned into short but strong gusts. I hoped and believed she was there, somewhere with me. I still do.

Maybe, you think, you are not one to write letters or to write at all. It’s not about that. What you write doesn’t have to be Jane Austen or Shakespeare. You do you. You write from your heart, from your head, whatever serves you to turn the pain you feel into love, light, gratitude and relief. What you are going through right now is hard enough, don’t be your hardest critic or your worst enemy. Your beloved pet would not want to see you suffer, so try to get better, little by little. Coping with loss has many faces and writing letters has helped me to go on. It would make me happy if it would help you too. Just give it a go, don’t think about it too much. You only need some paper, a pen and a place where you can comfortably write.

Do whatever serves you to turn the pain you feel into love and gratitude

It could be the favourite place of your lost pet or your most comfy corner. Perhaps the rooms that once were filled with the noises of your pet now feel haunted and you need to get out. That’s fine. Just go, go outside, take walks, go into nature or into parks, go into a cafe. Go to a place where the pain is less present. Try to find a bit of peace and then, slowly, let your thoughts and your pain run through you, from your hand to your pen onto the paper. Hopefully, you will find a little relief and be happy every time a sweet memory appears in your mind.

Sending you lots of love to get through the pain.
Jana

Photograph of the lost pet I write letters to: a white West Highland Terrier lays on a pillow with his head between her paws while looking directly into the camera. It's a black and white photograph.
The one I write my letters to

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