I am learning that grief is not a linear process. The sudden waves of simply an overwhelming sense of loss is something I can honestly admit I had never experienced in my entire life. Which, at 44, I can appreciate makes me incredibly fortunate and truly sympathetic to anyone that has gone through this process. I can also admit that my grief is due to the loss of my beloved dog, Tobias Maximus Minimus, which I know cannot compare to the extreme loss countless others have experienced in losing children, spouses, partners, parents, siblings, relatives and friends. But, this is the grief I know.
I also understand the 5 stages of grief and can attest to its accuracy. I can pinpoint the moments of bargaining when the veterinarian was explaining my dog’s situation – I wasn’t listening, but rather steering his words into an irrational outcome in my mind where all would be okay. My denial was short-lived, as clarity came in speaking to my wife and daughter about what to do. We all knew, as sudden and painful as this moment was, that our selfishness couldn’t outweigh our boy and his pain. I can pinpoint the moment of acceptance that was accompanied by the first wave of tears where grief first appeared in the silent wail, compressing my chest and taking my breath away. The anger, I am ashamed to admit, came in the following days, judging every dog and owner that walked past my house or that I encountered on walks. The bargaining came back in those moments too.
What I was surprised to learn was that the grief cycle leaves out an emotion: the actual feeling of grief. The sixth and most powerful feeling in my opinion. I have learned to discern the nuance between emotions that I had previously lumped together. I feel the reason for this is that the 5 emotions in the grief cycle are universally familiar, but grief, once experienced, is different. Grief feels like your soul becoming aware it’s been disconnected from a power source and trying desperately to escape your body in an attempt to search the universe to reattach itself, but returning untethered, resting just long enough to gather strength to set out once more. This is the linear process; a journey with an unknown travel plan and no destination. There is no getting to the other side of grief or conquering of it, and there’s no going back to before what lead to it. Grief doesn’t go away; the soul just learns at its own pace to travel less as it learns that it regenerates more efficiently on the fondness of memories than it does on pain. Nothing our soul connects with would ever want to see us suffer, and although grief has no expiration date, there’s also no due date.