Sunday, February 19, 2012

7 Stages of Grieving

It's been a week since we said goodbye to our beloved furry girl. I've gone from excruciating pain to restrained sadness to a strange calm. I looked up the stages of grief early on in the week to see just where I had been and where I was going. For those of you unfamiliar with these 7 stages, here they are:

1. SHOCK & DENIAL You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

2. PAIN & GUILT As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.

3. ANGER & BARGAINING Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.

You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair ("I will never drink again if you just bring him back")

Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving. During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

5. THE UPWARD TURN As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.

6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.

7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.

For me, I felt a strong responsibility to my daughter and husband to see that they were dealing with their pain in a healthy manner, before allowing myself to do the same. Call it mothering, call it control freak, call it what you will, but I had been the driver in this decision to put our furry kid to rest and it would be on my watch to see that everyone came out on the other side in one piece. When I saw that they were handling themselves beautifully, I took that as a sign that I could breakdown. And breakdown I did.

I passed over #1 and spent the better part of the week mired in #2. "If I had known Saturday was going to be the day, I would have given her a steak dinner on Friday night." were the kind of errant thoughts that passed through my body. For the first time in my life, I experienced true guilt. I had essentially killed my dog without so much as a bagel for breakfast. I was consumed for days with these ideas until I just said "no more".

I passed over #3 and seem to take #4-#6 as a combo. My sadness was tempered by a compulsion to create a collection of photos of her 13 years with us. Seeing all that she did, the vacations we took, the people she meet, the lives she touched, showed clearly through a timeline of pictures that her short life was indeed full.

I am currently in stage 7. I plan to be here for awhile. More than likely, longer than I need to. Each day is in fact, a bit easier. Each time I remember her, I am no longer brought to tears. Instead, I catch my breathe a little and let the pang of sadness pass through me instead of wash over me. I believe that is growth. And I will take it... one day at a time.


  1. Making a collage of photos of your dog is a wonderful idea. Makes me think I should get some photos of our dog, Pudge, with our boys. We do have a few on our cell phones, but not actual family photos. He really is a large, pun intended (lol) of our family. And to think, I was the one who drug my feet at getting a dog!
    So glad you stopped beating yourself up about what coulda, shoulda and woulda been done had you known the actual time of passing. I can tell by your warmhearted writing that you took great care of your dog. And I know she knew it and returned your love.
    So glad your husband and daughter have gone through this alright.
    And please don't feel guilt over being the one who chose to put your dog in a better place. That's a tough call to make. Given the fact you knew she wasn't acting up to par, I think you made a sound, though difficult choice. What would've been sad is if you had chosen to let your dog go on living a poor quality of life. Don't take that wrong. I mean, not being able to see properly, wetting herself and not being aware, etc.
    Our neighbor from when I was young, had a dog and refused to put Tuffy to rest even though the poor dog had to literally drag herself around and couldn't see or eat properly. She died a miserable death because her owner was inconsiderate of Tuffy's feelings. I hated him for doing that to her. And so did many of the other neighbors after watching him make his dog suffer.
    Yes, I am long winded as usual, Bonnie, lol.
    But you did the humane thing by not letting your dog suffer.
    Wishing you the best on your road to recovery :)

  2. My dear friend, Wendy. Thank you. Thank you.
    Hug Pudge. Take photos of the boys with him. Family portraits as well as the day to day. Is there anything quite so beautiful as a dog lying in the sunlight of a window sleeping or sitting next to your boys as they do their homework? Simple moments captured in time. In the end, which I hope is WAY off for you, they will mean so much.
    Thank you for being a friend. I am doing well so don't worry about me :-)