When your area of specialism is trauma and bodies, you know it, spot it happening for others even when they might not realise it themselves. Trauma happens in all sorts of ways, and this is a common one that has impacted so many dog owners. If we don’t recognise our experience as traumatic (if it actually was), then it is harder to process and the impact of this time can linger in our heart, our nervous system, and wider body for a long time. I wrote this for a special someone I know… I’m sharing it here in case it helps you too.
I am thinking of you. I am so sorry you are having to walk through such a tough time at the moment, and just when it seemed like things finally were feeling lighter for you. There is something I want desperately to say to you, but I know right now in these first few stunned hours, you will probably not want to hear it, be able to process it or even have any inclination to spend time connecting with me. Today you need your own time and you need to be uninterrupted by other peoples’ thoughts…so I will message you simply that I am thinking of you. I will write out what my heart is holding for you here, and maybe when you are ready for this you can come to it in your own time.
You know, people will say all sorts of things to you now. Things that you may or may not find helpful to receive. Please remember, so often they are speaking from their own needs. They care about you, they mean well, but they will tell you the things they need to hear, the things that they are comforting themselves with. If what you hear helps – great. IF what you hear doesn’t help or support you – no worries.
One thing you may hear directly or maybe just implied…
many other people have been through what you are going through…
I understand exactly what you are going through…
and here’s what I want to say to you.
You are unique
They have not and cannot understand exactly what you are going through. You are unique. As are they. Their life is, was, has been different to yours. Their personality, their way of coping, their hopes, dreams, their connections all different to yours…. the details of how this unfolded… and their relationship with their dog was different to yours too.
You have your own treasured moments, memories that will, in time (and it may be a long time), be a solace… but for now you are alone in the uniqueness of your grief and I want you to know I understand that. It is horrible and it is so hard. It may feel too much – or numbly nothing right now. You are still seen, and respected, and supported. The process you are in now and the one you will be going through (as it does change) for a while… are honoured by me.
Many people realise that hearing unexpected tragic news about your dog is devastating… and especially when it comes as a surprise, after so many other vets have said there is nothing really wrong. Not many people realise it is often, actually traumatic. Professionally, I know when to use that word accurately, and last week was one of them. From now on, when you consider the traumatic things that have happened in your life, hearing that news just a few days ago needs to be on the list. It will have changed you – not just your heart but your body, your nervous system… and now… there is grief too.
Here is something people often forget. Trauma and grief are different. We can go through trauma without grief. Sometimes we experience grief without trauma. They are different things, impact us differently and need different things to help us recover. Sometimes we experience them together. They enmesh, yet are still different.
The one thing I know to be helpful at times like this is to let your body lead you. Cry when you need to without any need to hide or apologize to anyone or even yourself. If there are no tears right now, make no apologies for that either. There are no ‘ought’s and ‘should’s at the moment. Sleep when you can whatever time of day it happens. Eat whatever you want when you can – it doesn’t matter what it is… just something to keep your blood levels steady and your body’s cells resourced to help you through this life-altering time. Drink water.
Be around whoever you want to be around… and leave when you want. Speak to whoever or no one. You get to call the shots right now and you have people around you who will respect that (even if they don’t fully understand- see my point above, they will be expecting you or advising you to do or be how they would or want you to.)
You have permission to be however you need to be. Today. Tomorrow and for days to come. You are loved. Your journey is yours.
The dynamics of connection, belonging, understanding, acceptance, knowing, fun, partnership, responsibility, trust and meaning that happen when there is a precious bond between a human and a dog are just some of the facets of the treasure life was with them. You will know, it is hard to put it into words. The hole of their absence is also indescribable.
Life has been interrupted again. It will never get back to ‘normal’ because your precious one is forever gone. There will be different life… eventually…. if you let you take your time… your body can recover… one day there will be ‘ok’.
In the meantime… you know where I am. x
written by Claire Wilson for someone special… and everyone.
Claire is a Trauma therapist. A dog lover who lived through both trauma and grief with her furry one.
The author of Grounded, TEDx speaker and the Founder of GROUNDED GrownUps®