Recently my friend had to put her dog to sleep. Cancer had taken over poor Rosie’s body and she was in pain; she was suffering and looked to the woman she loved most to help her. And my friend did.
My friend gave Rosie the peace she deserved. But before that, she spent time showing Rosie how much she was loved and expressing gratitude for all the love and joy she’d received from her companion. At the appointed time, Rosie was surrounded by those who loved her deeply and who were selfless enough to put her needs before their own wants.
As we all should.
For pets and for people.
My friend has been open about her heartache and the weight of supporting, even enabling a loved-one to die. In return my friend’s community have done the most amazing thing in return – instead of simply sending love emoji’s and words of condolence, they’ve shared their photos of Rosie with my friend, along with stories of their epic adventures and the everyday love they had for one another that inspired being captured in a photo and a memory – now shared not only in honor of her loss but in celebration of her life.
Such acts demonstrate to those who are deep in their own grief that their loved one had a far-reaching impact beyond those who saw her or him regularly. It teaches us that memories keep our loved ones present which is so much more than alive. And it’s that presence that gives hope which abates grief and enables us to overcome their absence with thoughts of their presence.
For pets as well as people.
As we all should recognize.
As the founder of Caregiven, a digital health app that supports family care partners to the dying, I think a lot about loss. And grief. I’ve learned that we all are prone to qualifying our grief instead of just honoring it. “We weren’t close,” “It could have been worst,” or “I know she was my dog and it’s nothing like the loss of a person, but…”.
But nothing. Grief is a gift because it gives us the space to transition from one version of our life into another version. We adjust as our families grow and expand; we adjust as there are voids and empty spaces. The family dynamic without my Dad is entirely different than the family when he was alive. My friend’s everyday life was different when she had to care for Rosie; her life now will feel very different without that companionship.
Any time I hear of someone suffering the loss of a loved-one, I think of my Dad. While my heart aches for their grief and transition, I also thank them for reminding me of him. While I only met Rosie a week before her cancer overwhelmed her, like it did my Dad, she’s been in my thoughts these last few days. I’m grateful that my friend was able to give her the end she deserved, much as my family was able to give my Dad. I’m thankful for the reminder that this is the best we can give to those we love so much.
As we all should embrace.
For people as well as pets.