On Losing A Loved One, Or A Pet

It can be so heart-wrenching, nasty and for a lack of better words: confusing.

Someone we love has died.

In itself, this could take us a lot of time to digest and internalize. Life can seem so awfully cruel in these moments when the people or pets that we knew, the beloved of our lives, cease to exist. The complex arrangement of atoms and elements that we knew to be our loved ones is now gone forever.

For religions, dying was regarded as an essential, immensely important, part of existence; it was supposed to happen at a time appointed by God or by fate. It was not an embarrassing or despair-inducing endpoint, it was a transformation: the soul would continue its life in another form or in another place. Those who died had only ‘departed’ and lived on elsewhere. Perhaps after our own death, our souls would be reunited with theirs.

– The Book of Life

In modern life and society, this cheery view of death is not so popular. It can be a deeply sorrowful reality, one that we feel ashamed to admit. Yet the truth is that nothing outrageous has happened. It is simply the completion of a contract that we signed at the moment of our birth: death is guaranteed, it is life that is the variable.

When we talk about loved ones that have passed, of course, we want to emphasize our love and respect. We feel a sort of pressure to speak well of the dead. Yet our relationship with them was much more complicated than that.  We had our moments of disagreement, frustration, and resentments. With our pets, this could mean our moments of neglect when they cozied up to us, or when they made a mess on that rug in the living room. 

We all feel regret. We think of our loved ones that have passed and we feel that we didn’t love them enough or say what we should have. There were things we didn’t do, and things we wish we hadn’t done. The realization though is that they reciprocated may of these thoughts themselves. They didn’t say everything either. We don’t always have to spell things out.

A few hours ago, I lost a pet. What was worse, however, is that I didn’t get to say goodbye. Even if I did, it would have been from seven thousand miles away. For a few years now she had begun to spiral into a series of problems with her health; blindness, paralysis of her hind legs, tumors. I was lucky to have had ten whole years with her.

The moment when someone dies is not when their body ceases to exist, but when the last person whose life was touched by them dies. On this basis, they have so long still left to live. They continue to survive within us. The conversation with them goes on without end in our own minds. They will be us through many things that have not yet happened, through so many dilemmas, joys and sorrows to come. We will take them into our confidences. We will hear their voice completely clearly – and they will advise and console us. Death cannot rob us of this. They live inside us now.

She was in our house through the good and the bad for ten years. She had been through the deaths in the family, and she had also been through the moments of me getting accepted into university and the whole kaboodle that came with that. 

I knew how much pain she was in. I had watched her suffer for years, and it had been traumatic for everyone. And when the time came, we submitted to the fact that it was, for her sake, for the best. For me, the solace of this whole ordeal was the same as it always is. Celebrate their life, not mourn their death. I shared a lot of happy moments with my pet. And I’m grateful for all of them. 

The truth about the death of our loved ones, and of our pets is just this simple. We endure. We will never forget them, but we will continue to live, today, tomorrow and the day after that. This is not disloyalty. It is loyal to the moments we shared with them. We can live on and continue to be faithful to their memory. They would be saddened by our sadness. Of course, they would not want us to feel that we couldn’t go on without them, but at the same time, they would be touched that we felt this way. They would fundamentally want us to remember that under all this pain, there was sorrow and love.

We miss them, but they are still here, now a part of us.

In Memory of Chocolate, (2008-2018).

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