Saturday, April 10, 2010

Replacing Pillows and Pets

When your bed pillow becomes too compressed to fluff, do you go squeeze a few new pillows at JC Penney and bring one home, eager for the comfort it will provide? Why isn’t the death of a pet like that: an easily replaceable comfort?
When a pet dies, people either understand the pain—or they don’t. When they don’t understand, they expect you to quickly “go shopping” for a replacement. You may receive guilt-inducing remarks about overcrowded shelters and how your big, fenced yard is perfect for dogs.

Animals abound at the pound; in fact, hundreds of rescue groups and shelters participate in the website, where you can search for a pet best suited to your needs. Using advanced search criteria, you can even locate ‘mutts’ with specific breed combinations.

A few years back, lead me to Lola, a Siamese Tabby mix, who added her strong temperament to our family. She taught us that pets are certainly individuals!
Lola in her favorite winter spot
 And, in the weeks following the November 2009 death of our sweet dog, Nikki, I returned to the website and searched in vain for her clone.
Me 'n Nikki (a long time ago!)
But I was not ready for a replacement. Searching for "another Nikki" it was simply one way of coping with the loss of her faithful, cuddling companionship.

All losses are not the same, and grief journeys differ from one person to the next. Skillful condolence writers do not express judgment, do not offer explanations or attempt to fix the circumstances. The truth is: there are people who adopt a new pet soon after a furry farewell; that does not condone asking a newly widowed person when he or she will start dating!

As I moved through my grief—from breathless shock and journaling to creating a photo memory book, I learned things I had known only as concepts or by observation.

I discovered how comforting it is to receive cards, poems, letters and email expressing sympathy, understanding, and affirmations about the care that Nikki enjoyed in our home.

Memorable condolence notes are based on caring and sharing. Good notes meet the definition of “compassion” which is to companion someone in their passion [strong feeling].

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