No one is prepared for loss. You can experience it a thousand times and still the grief that follows with always feel new. Every loss demands its own grieving process, whether it is the loss of a loved one, a friend, a pet or an idol. However, one commonality amongst all grieving processes is the sense of isolation. Our grief is difficult to put into words, making it nearly impossible to accurately describe the feeling to someone that has not experienced a similar type of loss.
This past weekend, I lost my guinea pig, Chester, and the grief that I feel now is completely different than the many griefs that I have experienced in just over the past 6 months. To some, a guinea pig hardly seems worth grieving over; however, every person or creature has a unique meaning to each person. Chester was one of my two Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and played a significant role in my day to day life. He provided me with social interaction, a daily routine and endless love, all of which I am immensely grateful for. Although my guinea pigs are small, their impact on my mental health is incredibly significant. After spending a night in my apartment without both of my guinea pigs, I realized what their presence means to me: I am never alone. When you own pets, you are always with someone. It means that there is constantly a presence that will always listen and love you no matter what you are going through. That is why, when they pass, their absence can be deafening.
Unlike you may have been told, there is no “standard” way to grieve. The 5 stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance- are widely known but don’t necessarily describe how the average person might grieve. While grieving, you may feel all of these stages in a different order or you may not feel some stages at all. Grieving is also much more complicated than 5 emotions. While grieving, you will laugh and smile. You may tell a joke then cry a moment later. Memories and emotions are constantly flowing through us and they can cause us to rapidly move from one feeling to the next.
Surrounding yourself with supports is immensely important while grieving. These supports can be friends, family, mental health professionals, support groups, etc. If you are grieving and are looking for help, here are some resources and information about grieving.
Grief – Psychology Today This is a collection of Psychology Today’s articles on grief, from pet loss to coping with grief on Mother’s Day.
Grief & Loss- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Resources for helping yourself and others through grief.