I've never faced death in this personal way before. I've been lucky to not have to experience any of my family members passing yet, a day I already dread and fear. Ellie had been having some problems with randomly stopping eating but every time we took her to the vet and he gave her some medicine, it seemed to help. Except this last time. She dropped about 30 pounds, refused to eat anything, didn't have the energy to go out and run or chase the hose--things she used to not get enough of. My grandfather had to carry her into his truck when she used to run and jump and sit in there for hours if she thought we were going somewhere. She couldn't walk by herself at the end. It was discovered she had a mass and surgery was planned...and then cancelled. The tumor had spread already, and the original was too big to be removed. By the time I woke up Tuesday morning she was gone.
I was a zombie that day at school. I couldn't explain why I wasn't talking without feeling like I was going to burst into tears. Most of my bathroom runs were simply to keep myself from falling apart in class. It was mind boggling to me how the world kept moving, and my life kept going, even as it felt like everything had fallen apart. In addition to the immense sadness, I felt an overwhelming amount of guilt. Not only was I not there in her final moments, Mom and I had to leave her behind when we moved here and couldn't ever explain why we left her. I've had her since I was eight and in a lot of ways I feel like we grew up together. It still pains me to think how I'll never again snuggle with her on a cold winter's night or be on the receiving end of her kisses. She was suffering and while I can't be happy she's gone, I am thankful she's out of pain. She wasn't herself towards the end and it was extremely hard for her and no one deserves that.
I also felt guilty about being a normal human about feeling hungry or laughing at someone's joke. A lot people feel this way when it comes to death and sadness, as if being human means we aren't grieving properly, and the best reminder came from my best friend, who lost her own four-legged companion about a month ago. "You're still human, you still need to eat. It doesn't mean you love her any less, and it doesn't mean her life was any less meaningful or your sadness is any less real. It's just food!"
Death is a very real part of everyone's lives, and it's very difficult. I want to remind everyone reading this, if you're upset about something (anything that makes you upset, don't worry about other people dismissing it--there's always someone ready to dismiss your feelings in this world, don't pay attention to those people) to keep these things in mind:
- It's okay, and actually very beneficial, to cry. Crying lets the emotion out of you and it's never something to be ashamed of.
- It's okay to feel guilty about random things, about things you feel like you could've done better or should've done better or would've done better...shoulda's coulda's and woulda's will get you nowhere. Let go of the guilt as a symptom of grief as you do the sadness itself.
- It's okay if it takes time to get over it...some days you'll be fine and the next you'll want to sob all day long. Ride it out. Eat ice cream. Don't get out of bed for a day or two.
- Don't be afraid to get help if you need it. Grief takes a while to leave sometimes, but it should never consume your entire life to the point where it's no longer your life.
- It's okay to not want to talk about it...but know that opening up to someone is beneficial and usually a very crucial step in getting over a tragic event.
It's still very raw for me, Ellie's death, and this blog post was interrupted by many bouts of crying and attempts to distract myself so I could continue writing it. I feel it's important to share our feelings if they could possibly help someone going through similar things so I pushed on with this very very personal post.
She had a wonderful life, thriving with my grandparents after we moved here, and I couldn't have asked for a sweeter childhood pet. The emptiness I feel at her absence will lessen in time, I know this, and still my heart breaks at the knowledge that she's not waiting for me to come home for Christmas. You were the absolute best Ellie and I love you, I love you, I love you.