The grief goes on

I’ve been quiet here lately. Not that I didn’t want to blog. I’ve been having so many thoughts that I’m continuously processing and distilling them in my head.

People haven’t asked how I’m doing. They probably assumed I’ve moved on based on what I post on social media. I realized early on that much as people feel sorry for what happened to Zack, not many can relate to the grief over a pet. So no one bothers to ask how I’m doing. Then again, it’s not that different after Daddy died. People just don’t want to reach out to grieving people, not even with a ten-foot pole. Sad because that’s when it’s really important to do so.

How am I doing? Barely getting by. Smiling on the outside. During bad grief days, sleepless at night. Tired during the day. Good days, I can sleep for 5-6 hours, 7 hours if I took allergy meds.

Last night, I was in the bedroom and I thought I heard three sniffs that sounded like Zack. That happened after I had a quick crying spell when I saw his picture by accident. Last weekend, we went on a road trip and I drove all the way to our destination for 8 hours. While my husband was asleep, I sang while driving, but when I heard certain songs that reminded me of Zack, tears streamed down my cheeks (that’s what I get for singing so many songs to him). We stayed in a lovely hotel museum, yet a part of me got upset. If Zack was alive, we wouldn’t have been able to stay there because they weren’t pet-friendly. Darn them.

I joined two pet grief support FB groups where I learned that so many pets are dying everyday, mostly due to kidney disease (which is what got Zack too). Then there’s a bunch who dealt with inept veterinarians providing mediocre care (which we experienced as well). Even those who put their pets to sleep encountered problems. All very heartbreaking stories, really.

But what have I learned since joining those groups?

  1. We’re not alone in feeling this way. We’re not crazy for feeling this level of grief. Grieving furbaby parents express a lot of regret and self-blame. We’ve done that and continue to do so. Maybe, hopefully, it will taper off in time.
  2. There’s no easy or perfect way for a pet to pass away. If they die on their own, you grapple with wondering if you did the humane and compassionate thing by letting them die naturally. (This is something I personally wonder about.) If they were put to sleep, I noticed that the owners wondered if they made the right decision…”what if our pet wasn’t ready to go yet, but we ended his/her life?” Some even had the process go awry with their furbabies fighting it out, looking at the parents as if asking why, having seizures, etcetera before eventually succumbing to the cocktail mix of meds. If they died in an accident, the owners blamed themselves for not protecting their furbaby the best way they can. If they went missing and are presumed dead, the owners wanted closure – they want the body of their furbaby back.
  3. There are some furbabies that show unusual strength and vigor the day before they passed away, which gave their parents false hopes. It’s like they know it’s the end of the line for them, but they’re giving their parents one good day to remember them by. Zack did the same thing for us (and I can’t even type it out without tears welling up in my eyes). I watched a documentary about the state of corals all over the world before, and I learned dying corals glow brightly before death. That thought popped up in my head when I learned about that one good day.
  4. Zack really was a fighter. Most of the people in the group have pets of various ages dying so quickly that their parents had no chance to say goodbye. Zack, my sweet little boy, came back to us twice allowing us to tell him what we wanted to say. I’m simultaneously comforted and saddened that our voices were the last things he heard as he drifted off to eternal sleep.
  5. I miss Zack more than ever. Every day. Every night. But this was a pain I was willing to accept just so he can be free from his pain, so I tell myself, “suck it up, buttercup.” There are still good grief days and bad grief days. Some days, I’d be in this “no tears or sad thoughts today…this is good” mood. But when the bad hits, it’s really bad. No sweeping it under the rug though. I’m embracing whatever I feel.

My birthday is coming up this month and he didn’t even make it to my birthday. I hope he’ll at least appear in my dreams in a good and happy way. That would make my heart glad.

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That strangely bittersweet early morning dream

I dreamt of Zack early this morning.

Ever since he passed away, I’ve only dreamt of him once – I cleaned his face, but somehow couldn’t see it clearly. Then he walked far from me, then turned his back and walked on towards some destination I knew not of. This morning’s dream was clearer. So clear, it stayed with me the whole day up till now. I’m posting it here because I don’t want to forget.

In my dream this morning, hubby and I plus some other people were supposed to go back somewhere (not sure where “back” was), so we packed our stuff and were waiting in line to check in our luggage. Then from a distance, I saw Zack running up the stairs with at least two other shih tzus. The face was clearly him and he looked happy. So happy that I felt happy for him. Especially since he was running, something he enjoyed doing when he was alive. We locked eyes briefly, and I nodded and smiled in acknowledgment. Then he turned around with his friends and ran off again. His body no longer had the black markings; it was all white. But his face remained the same cute black and white color. Then I woke up.

Somehow, I understand the meaning of the dream. After Zack passed away, I’ve been thinking that maybe things would’ve been different if we were back in the U.S. That maybe being here was a mistake because we lost him here. That if I can turn back time knowing what I know now, then we wouldn’t be here. But then in the dream, he appeared to show me that he was fine. He was having fun. Like he was telling me, “there’s no reason to question your decision, Mommy. I’m happy. I’m with friends.”

Hubby wondered if the other two shih tzus with Zack in my dream were Zack’s biological parents. That would be nice, right? If that’s the case, I hope they know how well-loved Zack is. I hope they know how we tried our best to give him a good life. I hope they know how big of a difference he made, not just to us, but to the entire family who overcame their fear of dogs because of Zack. I hope they know how sorry we are that his last days got so tough. But if they’re all together now, then that’s very comforting indeed.

Oh, and in addition to the dream, I thought I heard Zack’s little whine yesterday while I was watching TV. It was his whine when he wanted a little attention. But silly me, I thought it wasn’t possible…that maybe it was the electric air freshener that made the sound. When that darn thing finally sprayed, it sounded different. Then I realized the whine was Zack. My baby was around.

His 40th day is coming up this Monday. We think that he’s saying his goodbyes now. My little baby is finally ready to go and have fun in heaven. Still very thoughtful, that little one. Don’t worry, we won’t hold you back with our grief. You deserve heaven – all that and more. Just remember that you’ll always be my little baby, the best little boy ever.

 

Grief at night is the worst

After losing Zack, evenings have turned into my private hell.

He used to sleep beside me on his own pillow. He also loved to sleep with his head on my right shoulder. Otherwise, he’d sleep on my feet, in between my feet, or on the crook of my arm. Some nights, my arms or feet would go to sleep/numb (“nangangalay”) because of his weight, so I’d tell Zack to please move and he would. Lately, I’ve been thinking that I’d bear the “pangangalay” of my arms and feet just to have him back. But it’s all too late for that.

I read an article two nights ago on pet loss and pet grief that mentioned the term “heart dog” – “the companions we love as much as life itself”. Zack definitely falls into that category.

I grew up in a household with my dad’s German Shepherds, but Zack was the first one I tended to from puppyhood to senior citizenry. I still remember vividly the first time we saw him and his reaction when we finally brought him home. I remember my hesitation and discomfort because I didn’t really know how to deal with him. But when he got sick, I sat outside his crate to make sure he was alright. That’s when he became my baby. The bond was born. When he died, he died while he was looking at me. I’d like to think our bond stayed intact until the end.

Those who say pets are practice babies are so mistaken. With human babies, you tend to them until they reach a level of independence with the expectation that they will outlive you. With fur babies, they depend on you until their old age and most often than not, you will outlive them. You will feel the pain of seeing them die. It’s very heartbreaking.

The house is too quiet. Even if he was a quiet little guy, his absence and the silence is too deafening.

(By the way, I can only speak of my pain, but I’m definitely certain that my husband is suffering as much or even more at our loss. The two of them had a different sort of bond – Zack was his little boy, while Zack was my little baby.)