Two years have passed since the death of my childhood horse, Kramer. And I still cry about him on a weekly basis. Some people might think this sounds crazy. Some people might tell me to “move on,” which might be one of the worst phrases in the English language when it comes to grief.
In the words of the brilliant Nora McInerny, we don’t “move on” from our grief. We move forward with it. If you haven’t watched her Ted Talk, I highly recommend doing so (here: https://www.ted.com/talks/nora_mcinerny_we_don_t_move_on_from_grief_we_move_forward_with_it?language=en ).
Grief is not black and white. It’s not just like it’s here one day, and gone the next. It cannot be broken down that easily. Some days it feels like grief might swallow you whole. Some days you may think about your loved one and feel your heart swell, and smile thinking of the memories you shared. Grief is dynamic, it is shifting, and it is ever-present. Thinking that it will ever dissipate entirely will hold you back from being able to move forward with your grief.
I have read a LOT about grief over the last 10 months, since starting my journey toward becoming a certified Pet-Loss Grief Counselor. However, none of what is written below is from a textbook. This is just what has helped me personally. Again, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to cope with your grief. It is misleading to think there is anything formulaic about the grieving process. But these are things that have helped me move forward with my grief.
Write about it.
There is something cathartic about putting pen to paper. It allows your thoughts to leave your skull, even if only momentarily, and become more concrete through the written word. It allows you to process your loss. Write about everything – from the happy moments you shared throughout your time together, to the moment you lost your loved one, to your feelings of emptiness and despair afterward. Work through any complicated feelings – guilt, anger, denial. Write as often as you need to. Maybe your thoughts seem redundant, but I guarantee that your journal doesn’t care. It will always listen.
Talk about it.
We have a support system for a reason. It is easy to think you are burdening someone else with your problems – I have fallen victim to this many times. But the reality is that our loved ones want to help. They want to be supportive. So talk to them. Again, it may seem like everything you have to say is repeating itself. But in the same way that repetition helps us learn a new skill, like playing an instrument or learning a new sport, repetition also helps us process our emotions. And with every person you talk to, you will get a new perspective. They will help you see different parts of the grieving process. Each time you talk to someone, whether it is for 45 seconds or an hour, you give yourself the opportunity to move forward with your grief.
Cry. Cry a lot, and cry often.
Holding back tears doesn’t help anything. Just because you think you’ve cried “enough” does not mean it won’t ever happen again. Crying shouldn’t have a negative connotation to it, either. I “happy cry” all the time. The other day a song came on the radio that reminded me of Kramer – I used to sing it to him when we went down the trail to the track. It brought back the happiest memories, I cried for the duration of the song, and I smiled at the end of it. Embrace your tears. Embrace every emotion that billows inside you.
Don’t be afraid to form new relationships.
Nothing will ever replace your loved one. But that doesn’t mean that you will forever be unable to form new attachments. Channel your love for the person or animal you lost into a new love. Know that whoever you lost would want you to love again. The best way that I can possibly think about honoring anyone’s life is to carry forward the love they gave you by injecting it into someone else’s heart.
I am so grateful to Kramer for the love we shared. His life and his death made me the person I am today. And while I miss him more than I could possibly put into words, I know that his love is eternal. I will carry it forward in every moment of my life, and continue to inject his love into the hearts of others.