Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member
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Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/15/2011 13:53:59 MST Print View

My oldest girl lab, Sunni (11 yrs 5 mos.) died yesterday morning. I got her at 6 weeks old and, not having a wife or kids of my own, she was my family; along with her daughter and 2 cats. I do date, but there is no one remotely as meaningful as my pets are as far as having a family of my own. Other than a mother and a couple of siblings who live far, far away, my pets are my immediate family. I know it sounds pathetic, but it's true. All the other animals are visibly grieving and I'm having a really, REALLY tough time dealing right now. Sunni was the first dog I had on my own since I left home at 18 and I just don't know how to do this. Any advice anyone would have I would greatly appreciate. I, literally, can barely function. Being at work yesterday was a joke. It's a good thing I don't have anyone standing over my shoulder all day.Sunni "Sunni-Bones" Clement

Edited by socalpacker on 01/15/2011 14:14:57 MST.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/15/2011 14:14:49 MST Print View

Hi Kendall,

So sorry to hear about your poor baby. And I don't think the way you feel is pathetic at all, I feel much the same way.

Take the time to grieve. Let your heart be broken for a bit. Find solace in your remaining babies. Talk to them about Sunni, regardless of how silly someone else might tell you that is.

Fortunately, memories linger, pain fades. But it will be awhile. That's normal.

Pick up a copy of "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Regardless of who or what you've lost, it's a great book to help you understand why you're feeling what you're feeling, and that it's normal to feel that way. It helps you to understand that even in your loneliness, you're not alone.

All the best my friend,

Doug

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: "Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member" on 01/15/2011 14:18:51 MST Print View

Thanks very much Doug. I read that book about 20 years ago and I think it's packed away somewhere. That's a great idea. I don't remember much of it. I think I'll dig it out of a box somewhere. Thanks again friend.

Edited by socalpacker on 01/15/2011 14:19:24 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/15/2011 14:21:43 MST Print View

Sorry about your loss! :(

John Quinn
(inspector8598) - M

Locale: Northeast
Tough time with loss of family member on 01/15/2011 14:57:12 MST Print View

Kendall, So sorry for your loss. Only time will heal the hurt in your heart. Last July I lost my golden retriever "Bailey" of 14 years. After her passing, I wrote down some of my memories of her. It seemed to help. My last entry was "She will always be a member of our family, a loyal companion and I am heart broken that she is gone". As Doug said, relay this to the other members of your immediate family. It will help. Again, so sorry for your loss. John

Nick K
(nkline) - MLife

Locale: Northeast U.S.
My thoughts on 01/15/2011 15:19:53 MST Print View

Kendall,

Sometimes it seems like animals have more common sense then most people these days and they give love without ever expecting any in return. I know I'll probably feel heart-broken when the animals in my life "return home" one day.

The following is advice based on my past experiences with a "broken heart". I hope some of it is helpful.

Like Doug said, give yourself, and your other animal companions, time to grieve: cry your heart out, be depressed, worldly demands can wait.

There will be days when you wake up crying. And there will be days when you feel like life can begin again. I found it helpful to do something with the pain such as spending time in nature, writing a song/poem/whatever, helping someone else, getting back to a project that's been on-hold, or learning something new. In other words, keep the mind active even if it's just scribbling a picture on paper.

YOU WILL get through this even though you might be completely convinced otherwise at the moment. Believe it or not, one day you'll look back and think "man, that was a tough time in my lifeā€¦ but I survived."

Go be sad for awhile. You'll be OK, my friend.

Nick

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/15/2011 15:23:24 MST Print View

Kendall, not pathetic in the least. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I have 6 cats that are all just as much family as humans are. I am very sorry for your loss.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
Very sorry for your loss--I have been there on 01/15/2011 15:56:23 MST Print View

And in some ways I think I will always be there in some degree.

I lost Kiki--pictured in my avatar--almost a year ago. She got H1N1 from me. We have other cats, but Kiki was "the one." I haven't felt closer to any other being, human or otherwise, than I did with Kiki. Just one of those.

I anticipated it would be hard--maybe it was the hour-long showers lying on the floor sobbing--and I arranged a therapist even before she was gone and met with her two days after. I am still seeing her--she is a narrative therapist.

I really recommend working with someone who is trained in dealing with grief. Kubler-Ross's book is a great resource, too. What I have found is that the combination of narrative therapy and my graduate studies in both English and Creative Writing programs has been immensely helpful. I write about Kiki quite a lot. My MA thesis is dedicated to her and is an examination of the Feline Poetic in literature and other art forms throughout history. My MFA project is a book-length collection of stories and poems inspired by Kiki as well as a section that will be the real story of Kiki.

What this has done is help me channel both my love and grief for her into a productive and positive way of integrating her spirit into my everyday life. She has become my muse.

While this exact approach may not be what works for you, I encourage you to find a way to apply that emotional energy into something meaningful that you can do, and working with a therapist might help to figure out how to do this. It was somewhat of an accident for me, but my therapist is actually going to be offering a program modeled in some way after this accident. So through her, Kiki will actually be helping other people, too.

And I agree--this is the opposite of pathetic. I think not being able to feel this deeply would be pathetic.

Again, very sorry for your loss. But I am very glad you trust our community enough to reach out and share the story of your friend.

Peace,

Cary

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/15/2011 18:52:49 MST Print View

Kendall
There is nothing wrong with having a good cry.

I am observing my cat Lucy getting old and I dread the day when she will not be there anymore.
I have had her for about 18 years so yes she is part of my life.

How you will get over it I do not know but the pain will get less and less if you don't keep it inside now.
Take a walk, that helps me when I need to clear my head...
BTW, I learn a lot about people by the way they treat or think about animals.
Franco

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
Re: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/15/2011 22:29:51 MST Print View

The ability to give that kind of love to a pet or a person is a gift. The price you pay for that gift is the pain of loss. I feel so much sympathy with your loss. I lost my much loved cat over a year ago and still cry over the loss. I am married, but never had kids, so she was a big part of our family for 19 years. I was disturbed at the time to find that the loss of her grieved me(and maybe even my husband!) more than the loss of his Mom, maybe because she lived far away, while our cat was a part of our every day life--and everywhere I looked she was missing. I leaves a big hole in your home and your heart.

So, cry as much has you have to. Get outside--it helps a little. I suspect your life will feel pretty dark for a while. In time you'll start to feel more normal again-- for me, really, it took weeks or months--okay, maybe years. I took a LITTLE comfort in the fact that others experience this kind of loss and it doesn't wreck their lives (or not permanently...)

Hang in there. Go hug your other pets.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: "Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member" on 01/15/2011 23:43:50 MST Print View

Thank you everyone for your kind words. There's been a lot of crying going on. Spent a couple of hours with Abigail, my 3 yr old lab (Sunni's daughter) in a park today. Everywhere I looked Sunni was missing. We hiked up a small mountain, sat 'til sunset and shared a Subway 6" sandwich. The whole way Abigail was looking under every bush and behind every bend in the trail for her mom. It turned out to be pretty disturbing. Abbie went to every off-trail place her mother used to go to. It was as if she was frantically searching for her. I think we'll stay away from that park for a while. Maybe we'll spend a few weekends in local forests on trails we haven't been to. Better for me 'cause there won't be a lot of people where I'll go.

It's really hard right now. But, I am very grateful for all of the kind words and advice you're giving. This really means a lot to me. Something tells me it's going to be a LONG process.

Kimberly, I think you're right. It's not that your husband and you didn't love his mom. It's that your cat was a daily part of both your lives. 19 years is a generation! You nailed it. There's a great big darkness now where there used to be a bright, bright light.

Ken Helwig, your name sounds very familiar. I think we may have crossed paths a very long time ago. I want you to know that I appreciate your kind words as well.

I appreciate ALL of you guys' input. It's like my world has come crashing down around me. People keep calling and asking how I'm doing. All I can say is, "not good." The answer's not going to change. She died yesterday morning! I do realize they mean well, however. This is one of the things I love about BPL. It never ceases to amazing me how many truly good people are members here.

Edited by socalpacker on 01/15/2011 23:47:11 MST.

Misfit Mystic
(cooldrip)

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/16/2011 00:01:00 MST Print View

Through your grief you show your humanity Kendall. There is no shame in mourning the loss of a loved one, and any creature who spends their entire life by your side is family. How many people show the kind of devotion that a good dog does over 11 years?

I'm truly sorry for your loss my friend. God Bless Brother

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/16/2011 01:31:52 MST Print View

Ah, you're making me think of my Weimeraner buddy Odin. Lots of great hikes with him in OH, TN, & PA with him.

Odin

Odin in TN

Edited by TomClark on 01/16/2011 01:32:43 MST.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/16/2011 02:16:49 MST Print View

Kendall,

There is nothing pathetic about feeling the heart wrenching pain at the loss of someone that you loved and was a part of your daily life.

Just because she was a dog does not mean that your feelings of hurt and emptiness should be any less where she a person.

I have not doubt that to you, she was closer to your heart than many people around you in your life.

All I can offer you is my sincere empathy at your loss and to say that it is okay for you to give yourself permission to grief for her death in the coming months.

Hopefully, your pain and emptiness will linger long enough to mere sadness and then transform into only fond memories of how she enriched your life and of the things you both did together.

-Tony

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/16/2011 08:45:05 MST Print View

Maybe we have crossed paths Kendall. Please hang in there.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Loss on 01/16/2011 09:43:20 MST Print View

Kendall, I am sorry for your loss.
I have lost countless animals over the last few years; dogs Lumpy and Shorty, several cats, all our chickens. I lost both my parents over the last three years. It does get easier with time, then there's a smell or something else that triggers a memory and it hurts again. I am almost thankful for these latter moments, when it hits me hard again, because it's so raw and real and alive.
I am glad you have her puppy to enjoy. Hang in there. Thanks for sharing this and reminding us of how precious it all is.

todd harper
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: Sunshine State
Re: Tough Time With Loss of a Family Member on 01/17/2011 16:00:41 MST Print View

Kendall,

I am so sorry!

Several points of Doug's advice are very good. I haven't read beyond his advice to know what others have said, but do talk about it - just like you did on BPL. It takes time, but like Doug said, feeling broken is a proven way to heal.

My prayers are with you.

Todd