Monday, February 6, 2023

Pet Loss: When Needed Support Is Lacking

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.  ~ Eliza Tabor

A reader writes: Dear Marty, since I lost my beloved animal companion a week ago I haven't been able to participate in your online Pet Loss Forum, as I cannot express in words the anguishing pain I’m feeling.  As vulnerable as I am, I cannot expose my feelings to anyone but the most deeply understanding people, and so I'm not ready to expose myself yet. I've already been further aggrieved by some around me, so can't take even one more slight hurt right now, whether intentional or not.

I think you, of all people, though, will understand fully when I say...........I really just want to die right now. I am hurting more than mere words can ever begin to express, over the loss of my unbelievably precious pet, who was as close to me as my child. And the lack of much support is not helping me any. As I predicted many moons ago, this is, indeed, the very worst pain I've ever felt in my entire life, far surpassing any other grief, and I don't feel that even those in your forum would truly be able to comprehend it. So, I've stayed away. I'm also totally drained, so typing is so much effort -- again, I'm sure you understand.

My response: My dear, I am so very, very sorry for your loss -- and I know how hollow those words must seem to you. The problem at a time like this is that there simply are no words . . .

I am recalling at this very moment the deep, inexpressible pain I felt when my beloved Muffin died ~ a pain that I had never known before. I share that with you only to let you know that I have been there, too. It was one of those times in my own life when I just wasn't sure it was worth it to go on, and there are days when I feel that way still. I've come to believe that feeling that way is just a part of who I am. 

I am one of those for whom life has always been and continues to be fairly difficult in a lot of ways, and I am one who feels things very deeply. Because I‘ve come to know you as a member of our online group, I know that you are one of those folks, too. I cannot say anything that will take your pain and anguish away, my dear ~ I can only tell you this: You matter to me, and you are a very important part of this world we live in. You are a dear and special lady. You have a precious gift in your ability to reach out to others, empathize with their pain and give them hope in the face of the most devastating of circumstances. This is a rare gift, and not many people have it. I believe that is why you find it so difficult to obtain from others what you so desperately need from them ~ the same as that which you so freely have given to them when they needed you. They simply do not have it to give. You have that gift; most others do not. Please do not deprive the world of the gift you have been given, my friend. There are far too few of us in this world already. 

I understand that you feel hurt by some who haven’t been there for you, but I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive them their shortcomings. Perhaps it is for people like us to teach them by our example how to do it better. I also know there are many others who stand ready to offer you some measure of the understanding, compassion and support you so desperately need and deserve, and it hurts my heart to think that you're depriving yourself of that. 

At the same time, I know you will come back to us when you are ready, and I want you to take all the time you need. Just know that in the meantime, you are being held in gentle thought and prayer, and you are dearly loved.

Afterword: Thank-you again, for your kind, insightful and caring words.......there may be no words to change things, but there ARE words that can help nonetheless, and you found some good ones. It does help to find out we're alike in some ways, which helps me see that you understand on a deeper level...a level most people don't take the time to explore. Your recognition of how this affects what kind of help others are able or not able to provide ( me ) is appreciated. I was already aware of this difference, but it was nice to hear it echoed by someone else.....makes me feel less alone, and more understood. It's nice to be thought of as a "rare" 'commodity', rather than simply as "different", which is how I've instead tended to view myself. 

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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