In my 30 years I have lost more loved ones that I care to admit. Many of them taken too soon, and at the very least unexpectedly. I grieve hard. In school you learn about the seven stages of grief. I have about 3 and I experience them all at once, sometimes fluctuating during each day: sadness (obviously), anger, and acceptance. Let me say….acceptance can take me years to find.
My family lost their beloved Mauer this week. In our house, pets are family. We brought Mauer home two months after we got married; he was our first “baby.” My sons loved him and he loved them. We truly lost a family member.
What is different this time? I have two tiny humans watching me and learning how to grieve. That was a blow to my system when I realized it. I don’t feel like I have grieved in a particularly healthy way in the past and didn’t have much time to change my grieving style.
It’s been hard. I want to curl up in bed with a bottle of wine and my favorite picture of Mau. This isn’t far from something I might have done in the past. So what did I do different this time?
Recognizing My Triggers
We all have triggers that set off particular underlying emotions. My main trigger is clutter or a dirty house; it’s the first thing that can trigger my anger when I am in an emotional state. We had a rough week and knew we were saying goodbye to Mauer on Saturday. The house was in shambles. So I power cleaned on Friday – the house was spotless and comforting. When Saturday came not only did we have a peaceful environment, but my main trigger wasn’t available to set me off.
Honesty About Emotions
In my past I have buried or hid any particular emotions I had. I would respond with a tight-lipped smile and a curt nod. The universal, “I’m a mess, but don’t want to talk about it.” Instead, I was honest with my family. If I was quiet I would explain that I found a piece of chewed up milk bone on the floor and needed a quiet moment because I was sad. Everybody understood and allowed me space. Often this led to my 3 year-old dishing out hugs and kisses which quickly turned my attitude around.
Accepting my Family’s Emotions
We all grieve in different ways and this has taken me longer to realize than I like to admit. It’s ok that my husband gets quiet and doesn’t want to open up in the moment. It’s ok that my son doesn’t miss Mauer yet because he thinks he’s coming home. It’s ok that we are all processing Mauer’s loss in a different way. Once I came to terms with understanding their grieving style it was easier for me to find ways to help them.
Allowing Myself to Grieve Openly
Back to hiding behind my tight-lipped smile and curt nod….. Hiding my emotions from others meant I was hiding my emotions from myself. This time, I allowed myself to freely grieve. I lost my protector, my first baby, my best friend. Mauer had gotten me through countless bad days and made me laugh on my best days. He has left a gaping hole in my heart; broken hearts hurt. I allowed myself to cry. Ugly, loud, heartfelt tears. Once I ugly cried I felt a sense of peace and calming. Almost like he got me through one more set of tears before actually moving on.
Moving On Quickly
I don’t expect my 3 year-old to wallow in Mauer’s absence which means I can’t. We still need clean laundry, food in the house, baths and bedtime. As much as I want to cry every time I see a piece of food drop on the floor knowing Mauer won’t grab it, I can’t. That isn’t benefiting anybody, least of all my boys. I am still sad and will be for a long time. My boys didn’t have the same history or depth of emotion with Mauer. I understand that. There is talk of a new puppy. I understand that. Moving on is not forgetting; moving on is honoring the life lost and making sure my family stays healthy and happy.
How has dealing with life’s struggles changed since you have become a parent or as you’ve gotten older?