This week has been a long one for a lot of people. There’s panic, uncertainty, increased stress and a lot of people worried. There’s countless lives around the globe that have been impacted in some way. Some see this as an opportunity to take a break from a crazy schedules while others are feeling overwhelmed as they are tasked with finding childcare and entertaining their children in the middle of the school year. There’s isn’t an easy answer or solution to anything. The only thing that has been constant has been the rapid changes that have happened with the passing of each day. People are having to make adjustments in ways that they never planned to before. It’s a great time to be compassionate and show some kindness.
Grief is one of those things that can be complicated. While I’ve never sought formal training in being a grief coach or a grief therapist, it’s something that I’ve experienced in my years of practice. I’ve worked in hospice settings and in many hospitals where anticipatory grieving and grieving after a loved one has passed happened frequently. But there’s a significant level of less understanding for people who have lost a pet. Pet (especially dogs) are extensions of our families. My dog Sam was with me from high school all the way up until I finished my doctorate. He was a companion, pain in the butt, loyal friend, and a good listener. He didn’t have any safety awareness and tended to run up to cars instead of away. While he was brave in biting bigger dogs, his 13lb body shook from fear when there was a thunderstorm close by. He hated to have his paws touched but loved to find an empty lap to jump on and sleep. Overall, he was fairly mellow and didn’t have the explosive constant energy that was indicative of his breed. He usually slept through the night but on some occasions he wanted to go out every hour on the hour. Even after a year of him being gone I still miss him but I appreciate all the memories that I have of him. If there’s a doggie heaven I hope we’ll meet again.
This week has been one of the most emotionally challenging ones that I’ve had in a while. I had to to say goodbye to my dog that I have had since I was 16 or so. He was quirky, stubborn, spoiled, and a bit slow at times but he was mine. I remember when my family first got him. He jumped into our car after we opened our garage one day and just stuck around. He lived in four different states and took road trips from Georgia to Michigan and Colorado. The great thing about him was that he was very good-natured and loved children. I never had any worries about him becoming aggressive as he was always incredibly gentle. He had the most expressive brown eyes that expressed his displeasure when he didn’t get the food he wanted or he wasn’t taken outside soon enough. He also loved carbohydrates in all forms including pasta, pie dough, and ramen and preferred a boiled egg to any type of dog food. He slept beside me every night for years and would often hog my pillow as he sprawled out across the bed. He was alive for every major heartbreak of my adult life as well as some teenage ones. Unlike most dogs of his breed he enjoyed chilling out and wanted to be held and cuddled most of the time. He would often fall asleep on my lap or chest as I was doing my homework. He hated loud noises which included gunshots and fireworks. Whenever it stormed I would stay up with him all night because he was so scared and would shake uncontrollably. He was lost on several occasions, he was trapped in a hole for a day, he suffered a brain injury from an attack from another dog, and he almost hung himself from our deck after jumping off and getting caught by his leash. He also ran towards cars instead of away from them. This dog was a freaking walking miracle. And yet he remained unbothered and continued to demonstrate poor safety awareness up until the very end. He was the perfect sized dog to pick up and pull out of any immediate danger rather quickly. Despite all his flaws I knew that he loved and trusted me until the very end when he put his little head on my chest and sighed before he went to sleep forever. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He lived a long, adventurous and full 17 years and I’ll miss him forever. Life will never be the same without him and his quirks.
R.I.P. Sam 2002-2019
Assume that being independent and being in a relationship have to be two mutually exclusive things.
I was really into the holidays when I was younger. Christmas meant carols,driving around to look at lights, and presents. It’s a time to be appreciative of what you have and remember that it can always be worse. I ran across an article this week that reminded me of my days working in hospice. You can read it here. Like the author, I have also had conversations with people who are terminally ill. Family has always been the number one topic. People don’t care about their houses or cars. They want to know that their families will be ok after they’re gone. It’s so important to appreciate the people around you who have made a positive contribution to your life. But also equally important to reach out to those who struggle during the season. While it’s a happy time for some, it’s also a living hell for others. Life can be unpredictable and messy but also beautiful. Happy Holidays
One of the things that I appreciate about social work is that there is an abundance of things to do. You aren’t required to stay doing the same thing for decades at a time. There’s room to try something different and learn a completely new set of skills while still working in the field. One thing I’ve noticed is that while people are all different, they share a lot of commonalities as well. There’s a video that went viral recently where a lady was recounting her experience at a popular store. She observed a customer being nasty to a cashier that appeared flustered and to be having a bad day. After confronting the customer, the cashier shared that he had had a very recent tragic loss and was struggling to pay rent. The lesson from the story is that you never know what someone is going through so be kind to everyone. The holidays can bring up so many emotions for people as they remember loved ones they miss and re-hash old wounds with family members. It’s a time that many people are especially fragile and as someone who has worked in mental health, I’ve noticed there’s a increase in suicide attempts after major holidays. This isn’t an appeal for world peace (as much as we need it). Just a reminder to try to be a bit more patient and kind as you interact with people. You don’t know their stories.