Not too long ago, my nephew and niece lost their pet dog to a tragic accident at home while they were away on vacation. The dog was only a few months old and everyone at home loved him as a bonafide family member. When they lost him, they felt as if they lost a part of themselves (naturally). Of course, the family found it hard to come to terms with the loss (even if they weren’t expressing their emotions outright to each other). For instance, my niece aimed to spend the least amount of time at home to avoid being reminded of him. My nephew kept his emotions mostly to himself. Their parents went on about their daily lives by channeling their attention elsewhere (such as joining a gym among other things).
The thing is when someone loves you (unconditionally) one day, and the next day they are gone (from your life or to death), it can be challenging to deal with. Of course, I was familiar with a similar situation all too well.
It was only a year ago when my then partner and I parted ways. In fact, that was the last piece I wrote on my weblog in almost a year. I remember when it happened, I felt as if my world had collapsed because at no other time in my life did I feel more connected with someone. I desperately hoped things would work out between us. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t eat; I had lost my appetite. I couldn’t get my attention off of it. I felt trapped within the four corners of my space. It felt as if everything around me was coming to get me and I had a hard time battling the inner demons.
I remember at the time, one of my friends and I would get together on the weekend to catch up and we would talk about it (among other things). While I appreciated my friend for listening to me, it did little to help me feel any better. I remember going to our gated community’s lobby to chat with the concierge for a few minutes every day following the separation, just so I could desperately shift my attention elsewhere. I couldn’t come to terms with the emotional separation at the time. I couldn’t believe that one day the person who loved me didn’t feel the same about me the following day. It felt as if the other person didn’t exist anymore (for me, anyway).
Even though I knew we are only entitled to love others, and there’s nothing we can do (nor can they), if they don’t love us in return, it was hard for me to accept it (I can’t imagine it being any easy for her too).
As a result of this experience, I had given up on love for some time. I even stopped watching films for a while, which was something I enjoyed doing almost weekly. Suffice it to say, it took me a few months to get over it and to move on, thanks in no small part to being reminded of the spiritual lessons I’d learned earlier. In fact, recovering from this separation was far more challenging for me and it took me a lot longer than with my earlier partner, who I had known for a few years. That went to show (for me) how there was little co-relation between the time I knew someone and the quality of my connection with them.
It was then that I realized I couldn’t depend on someone outside of myself for my happiness and well-being, regardless of whether there was someone in my life or not. Of course, as I shared in that piece, it’s one thing to know, but its another thing altogether to be able to do. I suppose no matter how much you know, unless you have gone through the pain yourself, it’s hard to come out stronger (and better) on the other side. This relationship was a reminder for me that the challenges we face in life are for the better and we must embrace them (rather than shy away). Peace as they say is on the far side of suffering. Everything costs something. Nothing is free.The price we pay for peace is suffering.
When I heard about my niece losing her dog, I was shocked and mad, given that he was only a few months old. I related to her loss by sharing the aforementioned story of my separation, which was likely the most emotionally challenging thing I had faced in my life. It reminded me about my emotional dependence on others. Of course, it was one thing to know things and other to be able to experience them.
I shared with my niece that it was okay for her to take her own time in grieving with the loss (and encourage others in the family to do so as well). This wasn’t to say others in the family weren’t grieving, as we all grieve in our own ways (without being explicit). The point being, not only was it okay to grieve, but we should take our own time in doing so, so we can accept it fully in our hearts even though its been apparent in our lives for a while. Yes, there will be bereavement. It’s natural. We are humans with feelings and emotions, and not robots. Although, we know we are going to lose others in our lives at some point, it doesn’t make it any easier for us to go through these experiences.
As hard as it sounds, we can’t grieve forever and at some point, we will want to move on with our lives emotionally (even though we might have moved on in the practical sense), because what’s the alternative? We can’t keep driving forward looking in the rear-view mirror. The emotional turmoil I experienced in my then relationship made me more self-reliant, which was the silver lining for me, even if the cost was too high to bear. Of course, the higher the cost, the more we learn. Nothing is ever free. Everything costs something. The only question is what are we willing to pay for what we learn.
This brings up the other point, which is, grieving over a loved one’s loss and moving on in our lives aren’t mutually exclusive, whether it’s a pet dog or a partner or who have you; we can grieve our loss and we can welcome a new member (dog) in the family (for instance) just like widow/widowers who may find another partner at some point. This is no disrespect to the ones they have lost whilst at the same time serves their emotionals needs. In other words, it’s not mutually exclusive to remember the departed while welcoming others in our lives. What that meant for me was I was able to move on from the relationship and make space in my life to love again.
Of course, not everyone in our life can take the place of others (such as our family members, for instance). Losing them can be a permanent loss for many, which I suspect depending on the quality of our relationship can be downright challenging to cope with.
What I was reminded from this experience, more than anything, that at some point, we have to deal with our loss by way of losing a loved one to death or otherwise. There’s no getting around it. Even though we know we are all meant to perish one day, that fact doesn’t make it any easier for us to deal with, when others leave us one way or another.
What I learned was we don’t have to suffer from separation in our relationships with others. We can stay detached as much as possible; we can neither give nor take sorrows. We can learn to be emotionally independent. We can choose not to derive our happiness from our relationship alone, because we know no one who is not happy by themselves can be happy in a relationship. When we are unhappy by ourselves, it would be a mistake to think that having a relationship would fill that void in our life. In fact, it’s asking too much from others and it’d be rather unfair.
I suppose all said and done, no amount of preparing ourselves for these eventualities can help us cope with difficult situations when they do come to pass except being reminded to rejoice in each other’s company for the short time we have and to not take each other for granted. I believe the greatest gift we can give each other is our undivided attention; everything else is secondary.
As with most matters, all we can hope to do is to cope with it the best we can, when it comes to pass. We can take our time to mourn our losses and at the same time look back to cherish the memories and celebrate their lives.