I have not had many pets in my life. As a child we had a puppy for about two days when it died. I don't remember much about that. As an adult I had a cat named Toby and later I fell in love with dogs. Our first dog, a Golden mix, was a throw away. Our neighbor saw its owner slow his truck a bit near a dump and throw Buffy (pictured left) out the window. He was 4 months old and became our family member for 13 years. He roamed our woods with us, curled up with Bill or me (or both of us) as we watched television, listened to music or slept.
Living well for many of us includes sharing our lives with a variety of pets. Some of us prefer cats, others prefer dogs, birds, fish or horses. If an animal is truly a pet, s/he becomes a family member and when they die...we grieve.
Following a loss, we attempt to describe what follows using words and phrases that include grief recovery, moving on, moving forward, healing our grief, healing our lives and more. People ask us how we are doing? Some really want to know. Others...not so much. Many tell us how we are doing or how we look or act. Many wish us well and it comes from deep in their hearts.
As for me, I have not found a word or phrase that accurately describes the journey and pain that follows a significant loss.
I was talking to a talented artist friend who has painted, sculpted and taught art all her life. Now at 86 she is working on a huge triptych and said as she showed it to me. "It might take me three years or the rest of my life to do. I don't think about that. Working on it is just delicious."
I was truly happy for her but I also felt a surge of pain knowing I have not yet found something that feels delicious since Bill died. I said to her after looking at her work, "Bill was my delicious. Now I wrestle with the hole left in my heart and life. Bill and I enjoyed hiking, biking, road trips, cooking....and so much more together...even cleaning the garage had its delicious moments. But none of those feel delicious without him. I have experienced good moments, even hints of delicious but so far that incredible feeling of total and joyous absorption into something; art, music or another person, is not yet mine. "
Some people consider Mother's Day to be just another of Hallmark's reasons to sell cards or for the restaurants and florists to make a lot of money. Others find it to be a joyous day on which they remember and cherish their moms. However, for many people of all ages, the day comes clothed in pain and loss, grief and sadness. This is especially true for those mothers who lost a baby last month or twenty years ago and those who have lost a child of five or fifty-five. Moms grieve those losses forever and never forget. There are adults whose mothers were incapable of loving anyone, often because they were never loved themselves. These mothers may have been abusive or drug addicts or just walked away. As a therapist I have known many adult women estranged from their children and who long for their love and presence. I have spent a good amount of time in my professional life working with children who were abused and neglected and know what it is like to see an incarcerated 6 year old in therapy working through, as best s/he can, the pain his /hermother inflicted on him/her. I have seen many women in treatment over the years whose grief focused on their mothers for many different reasons. And finally there are those women who always wanted to be mothers but life took them down different paths. I think of them because I was one of those women.