He’s gone. I will never see him again. I will never hear him again. I will never feel him again. He is gone from this earth. I am trying desperately to wrap my head around this new reality, but it is still too painful to grasp.
I live in 15 second increments. Make the coffee. Water the plants. Back out of the driveway. If I project too far ahead I just see a cliff. So I don’t look past the next task in front of me.
Over a month ago I had to say my final good-bye to my beloved Bernese mountain dog Atlas. Afterward people were more supportive than I would have thought. But I sense the time is here when they expect me to move on. It was a dog we are talking about after all. Only I am not ready. In fact, I strongly suspect this loss has altered me irrevocably.
I have some experience with how loss can change you. Over twenty years ago I was left at the altar, which by the way is not at all like they would lead you to believe in romantic comedies. Before this, I was a rather stoic person. Even as a child, I prided myself in my emotional control. But something broke that December day, and I became a veritable leaky faucet. I hoped with time I would regain the control over my tears. But alas, I have now accepted the fact that I am officially a crybaby.
I cry in secret now. Part of that has to do with the fact that I am not sure others would understand how or why I am grieving so deeply for a dog. I never had children of my own. People might mistakenly assume I saw Atlas as my child. I did not. He was my dog. Still I loved him incredibly.There is something so preciously untarnished about the relationship you can have with a dog. Their love is so pure. Their acceptance of you is so complete. My relationship with Atlas was an unshakable safe haven for my sometimes insecure soul. He kept me connected to the sensory-filled joys of life on earth. He is no longer there to do that.
I know. I was lucky to have had something so precious in my life. But the past tense in that sentence highlights my new reality. I was so lucky, but I no longer am. The loss is undeniable.
I realize only part of why I feel I must hide my grief is because Atlas was a dog. Mostly it is simply because I still feel the loss of his loving presence at times in a desperate how-can-I-possibly-continue panicking way. Grief is a completely individual experience. Even those who also loved the one who is gone must travel their own paths. I realize now this is true whether the loss is a parent, a sibling, or a human friend. The journey is a solitary one, and it is terrifying.
So this is for anyone else who, like me, is feeling utterly alone in deep sadness because a loving relationship that once gave their lives meaning no longer exists. This is for anyone who wonders how they will pick up the pieces of their shattered hearts and reassemble them into anything that will beat again with even a modicum of happiness. You are not completely alone. Let’s grieve and cry together for as long as we need to, even if we never meet. Let’s acknowledge we will probably never be the same. And let’s hope that someday, though I cannot see it yet, someday we can live – truly live-in this new reality with some joy. If it is a fraction of the joy that my relationship with Atlas brought me, I may even consider myself lucky again. Still, it will never change what is lost.
I miss you, Atlas.