I don’t consider myself very good at grieving. For one thing I tend to live in my head far more than my heart or body. For another I am constantly future-oriented. I wake up in the morning thinking of what is to come and where I go from here. That way of being is very unlike my dog Kloe. She was a master at staying present in the moment. She never seemed to look forward or backward—just focused on what was right before her. Perhaps that is one of her final lessons for me. Just take one day at a time. Feel what you feel. Don’t push away your emotions, but don’t let anyone else tell you how to handle them either. And be happy and content when surrounded by those you love.
As I think most of us know, grief is a normal human response to loss and it will last as long (or as short) as it needs to last. As for Kloe, she never denied when irritated or upset—and was often pretty vocal about it—but she seemed to know how to immediately forgive and forget, and then be happy and content shortly thereafter. While my heart felt broken by her sudden passing less than a week ago, I want to learn these last lessons from her to the best of my ability.
Like nearly everyone we know, Thom and I have lost several beloved pets in our lives. Kloe was the fourth. While each of them were difficult, it seemed more bearable when anticipated. The others, Tooter, Fenwick and Chi were all sick for a while before they passed on so we had time to prepare ourselves emotionally. Kloe went so quickly and unexpectedly that it felt like a section had been ripped from my heart. Fortunately I was able to share this deep loss with Thom. His willingness to grieve with me has made it bearable.
Of course I know that I am far from alone. Everyone I know has lost beloved pets and/or people. I also think of all those related to the 350,000 people in the U.S. alone who have died from COVID-19 in the last year. Grief is rampant in our world right now. I truly hope that those who are surviving any loss have someone to hold them, allow them to speak their grief, and let their tears fall. My wish is that everyone finds a way to experience their grief for as deep and as long as they need. Once experienced, may we all find a way to process it in a way that comforts us and allows us to go on.
As for me, I can feel Kloe helping me right now. She was such a big part of my life I see her in my mind nearly every minute. But I’m reminded that she constantly lived her life without dwelling on the past or even considering what happened moments ago. She was always looking for the good—be it laying in the sun, sitting at attention for a treat, or trotting briskly through the park, focused on any and all movement.
Another thing Kloe reminds me of is to let go of regrets. It is so tempting to think we should or could have handled her last week differently. Not only can we not change anything that has happened, but we must know we made choices and decisions based upon what we thought best for her at the time. Kloe knows it could not be any different.
I also frequently thought that Kloe was very codependent on her “pack”…aka: Thom and I. Especially during the last nine months of COVID-19 when she was our constant companion. But you know what? I now believe that it was me that was codependent for her. I relied on her company, her presence and her love far more than I realized.
Because of my own spiritual understanding, I know that Kloe is currently enjoying the freedom, joy and expansiveness available to us all once we pass. She was always one for adventure and this is likely one of the greatest any of us will experience. So the grief I feel is my sadness at the loss of her in my physical, mental and emotional world.
As a writer I suppose it is no surprise that I am writing this blog post about Kloe. Writing continues to be the best way for me to process my life and experiences—good and bad. Plus, I firmly believe that we all determine the story of our lives and that we get to “make them up.” So while this loss still hurts and will likely for a long time, I want to tell the story of the joy and love Kloe brought to my life. What if you are not a writer? I believe Kloe would suggest that you “take a walk.” I’m pretty sure that was her solution to just about any problem or sadness, and it helps me every day as well.
From here forward I want to remember Kloe as healthy, happy and living moment-to-moment. I chose to see her eagerly looking forward to experiencing her next adventure with her ears cocked forward, her tail curved in a tight spiral, and her nose pointing up and ahead. Perhaps it is SMART for us all to address each new moment in the same way.