Grief is a strange thing to experience. It comes in waves, it ebbs and flows. I was riding out my grief and just when I thought I was doing a good job of managing it and getting better, I got hit with a tsunami of grief. It’s a thing.
I lost my mother just over eight months ago. I am still reeling from her death. Just recently, I lost my beloved Chug (Chihuahua Pug) dog, Captain Malcolm. He crossed the rainbow bridge on May 24th. His death was very unexpected, our whole family was caught off guard. I was in Toronto with my three children to attend my sister’s wedding, my husband was traveling due to volunteer firefighter training. My poor puppy, we weren’t there for him when he needed us the most. My best friend and close family friend was there, thank the Gods. She was there for me when Momma died; she was with me when I got the message about Momma and she drove me down that day to see her. She took such good care of Mal, she rushed him to the vet which is roughly a 300km drive down a horrid gravel road. The vets did all they could for Malcolm, but it wasn’t enough. He was paralyzed from the waist down, due to a spinal rupture. The vet said there was nothing we could have done to prevent or anticipate this, it is a genetic abnormality found in both Chihuahuas and Pugs and is not uncommon in Chugs. A decision was made to have him euthanized, and he went to sleep.
Captain Malcolm’s death hit us all hard, even the fur babies are out of sorts. We all feel so lost without Mal. He was my furever baby. My hubby adopted him for me, as at the time I was told by my specialist that I could not carry another baby to term. I was severely depressed about that, I always wanted three or four kids. Malcolm was the baby that I couldn’t have, that would never get bigger than me. My children will grow up and eventually be taller than me. That won’t take much, I’m only 5’0 tall. But Mal, he would stay puppy sized. My furever baby.
Mal was named after the main character on the TV show Firefly, Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He aimed to misbehave. He was always there, following us around the house. He was a stealthy thief, whether it was stealing someone’s spot on the couch, stealing someone’s leftovers off the plate in the dining room, or stealing socks and left shoes to hide under the bed. He snorted and shnarfed, sort of like a pig. We called him “Piggly” sometimes. He loved to snuggle. I have a king sized bed, my hubby and I snuggle and take up less than half of the bed. The rest of the bed was Mal’s, and he insisted on sleeping up against me. He was a gentle puppy, as much as he tore around the house yipping and growling, he was ever so careful. He adored my children, he loved to play fetch and snuggle them. He loved giving kisses, I used to call him cat-like because he’d lick my whole arm just like my cats do. You could walk into my living room and find Mal perched on top of the couch, much like a cat.
It hurts me to the core how I couldn’t be there for him in the end. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone to my sister’s wedding. I would have stayed home to be with him. But that’s the thing, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” There was no way to know this was going to happen. But it happened, and we have to deal with it. There is no point in blaming myself, that is a waste of time and energy. Finding blame won’t bring back Captain Malcolm, and it’s no way to honour his memory. I choose to remember him fondly, and think happy memories of him. Mal never liked me being sad, he loved when I was happy. So I’m going to be happy for him. Just like Momma, she wouldn’t want me to grieve and be sad, she would want me to be happy and remember the good times. I do my best to honour their memories every day, it helps keep me going. My children and I will tell each other stories about Momma and Mal, it brings us comfort. Sure, the tears flow and we all bear hug, but it makes us feel better.
My hubby, one of our best friends, and his father built a coffin for Captain Malcolm. I bawled when I saw it. It’s beautiful, very fitting for the Captain’s final resting quarters.
Some days are harder than others. I’m still struggling with losing my mother, and now I lost my furever baby. Grief compounding grief. It’s heavy to carry around, literally. Most days I feel so exhausted, despite having a good night’s sleep. Coffee sometimes helps. I tend to stare off into space, getting caught up in my memories. My mind is all over the place, as is my focus. I’m usually scatterbrained but this is just ridiculous.
I have to fight this. I have to combat the grief and keep going. How do I fight this? How do I keep going? I remind myself of all the good things in my life. I keep a gratefulness journal. I use my DBT and CBT skills daily, and try to meditate at least once a day. I take my meds faithfully, I listen to my alarms and follow my routines. I use various methods of self care every day, lately it’s been hot baths and putting on makeup. I find my motivation to get up every morning and give’r. My husband, my children, my family. They are my motivation. I snuggle and play with my baby throughout the day, I try to read to him but he’s more interested in eating the book than reading it. I spend time with my kids and play with them. I have my daily alone time with my hubby, he’s my best friend and my favourite person. I crave my daily time with him. I have a good life, I’m happy with my life. I have so many reasons to smile. I can’t focus on the reasons to cry and frown. I focus on the positives. It keeps me going.
Earlier, I said that grief comes in waves. I should elaborate on that. Let’s say I’m washing bottles in the kitchen and dancing to music. I’ll look behind me to make sure I’m not going to step on Malcolm (he was always underfoot), and then it hits me. Mal’s not here anymore. I start crying, and it’s like I lost him all over again. Another example, when I remind my children to do their chores. They each take turns feeding the fur babies. I’ve been so used to saying “Feed the puppies” that I still catch myself saying it, which leads me to correcting myself. My children will reminisce about Mal, then we’ll all start crying and hugging.
Grief hits me even when there is nothing to trigger it. I could be in a great mood, listening to music and putting on makeup, and the tears will start flowing. I can’t stop them. It will happen spontaneously. While I’m doing laundry, or playing World of Warcraft. I just cry, uncontrollably. I don’t know if this is a common physical symptom of grief, but it’s something I experience. When it does happen, I try my best to stop crying. I’ll mindfully keep doing whatever task, or I’ll think of happy things like seeing my Hubby, or if my baby is awake I will hug him and play with him. I think and do things that bring me joy. Sometimes I just let it out, and have a good cry. It feels good to let it out. It’s ok to grieve, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry. Everyone handles grief differently, and that’s ok. Depending on my mood, I handle it differently.
I’m currently in the midst of a depressive episode, but I am coping and managing it well. I’ve made some changes to my daily routine to help me through this episode, time will tell if it works or not. For the most part, I’m ok. I don’t have intrusive thoughts, I’m not suicidal, or having thoughts of harming myself or others. I’m pretty stable, I’m just depressed. I am still functioning, maybe not at 100% but hey I’m not giving up. I will get better, I won’t feel this way forever.
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.– – Dr. Seuss
I miss my fur baby, every day. As much as I carry guilt for not being home when tragedy struck, I can’t focus on that. It doesn’t help. What I can do, is take solace in knowing that my beloved dog is not suffering. He’s with my Momma now. I like to think that he’s in dog heaven, chasing all the bunnies and eating all the bacon and table scraps. It brings me comfort. I’m grateful for the time I had with Mal, and will cherish the memories I have of him. Rest easy, Captain. May you aim to misbehave beyond the rainbow bridge.