kurt2824
It's been over a month since we lost our best friend. Like many others on this forum, the death of our dog upset our equilibrium. The loss was unexpected and to say we were caught off-guard is an understatement. I can rationalize his death (we had ten wonderful years together, he was very sick and there was nothing we could do to help him at the end even though we would have moved mountains for him), but my heart and my head do not agree. The grief is still so strong that it scares me and its making me physically unwell. It's like all of these emotions are pressurized and waiting just under the surface. When I tap into them, as happens every single day, it's overwhelming. My heart has been broken and it's a struggle to function, let alone enjoy life.

I feel like I'm letting down the people and other pets in my life, because I can't get over this loss. Is this the new normal? Is there anything that can facilitate peace? Maybe the only thing to do is accept the pain?

Seeing that there are so many people here who love deeply and grieve in equal measure, I would appreciate knowing what has helped you navigate a new reality after losing a piece of your heart. Thank you.
Cristina Harmelink
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BorderCollieLover
Cristina:

  My sincerest sympathies on the loss of your beloved dog. I can certainly understand that the whole equilibrium of your life has been altered. Just the idea that it was unexpected is enough to put you in a downward spiral.  I lost my dog just over (2) months ago and the grief that I feel now is every bit as intense as it was back on that horrible day. What you are feeling is perfectly normal. The sadness, the guilt, the anger, the what if's are all part of your mind's way of trying to come to terms with this tragedy. I would venture to say that you are probably still in a state of shock.  I read a good description of grief recently and it went something like this "you don't heal from grief - you carry it. " My interpretation of this is that you will always feel sadness over the loss of your dog but like an impediment that rests on top of your shoulders, the burden will lighten over time. The black clouds that have descended upon you will lift. You will feel better over time. 
You asked what others have done to help themselves feel better. That's a great question. I'm certainly not an expert but here's what I do to help right my capsized ship (life). For the 1st few weeks after my dog's death (Shelby) I was a complete basket-case. I could barely function. I couldn't sleep, ate sparingly, had no energy and hated the world. By the 3rd week I knew I had better do something quickly or I would be in serious trouble. I work at home so I could avoid - for the most part -  insensitive people and jerks who can't grasp the concept that we pet people loved our pets more than we love life itself. Yeah, I still had to deal with these people (can't avoid them forever) in business settings, over the phone, sometimes in person, etc. but made sure that I kept the conversations (real) short. I also reached out to people (extended family members, friends, colleagues, etc.) over the phone. Yep, I just called them out of the blue and told them that I was hurting and really needed to talk. Most were very receptive to my grief. I spent hours on the phone with people - many of whom - I hadn't seen in years. My support was pretty good. To help myself sleep I implemented herbal remedies into my daily regimen: Passionflower, Lemon Balm, Skullcap, Hops, etc. They did help somewhat. I like the natural approach better than over the counter pharmaceuticals (I will not use these. Too many possible side effects). I did some addition by subtraction with my diet. Out went the refined sugar and carbohydrates. In went green veggie juices, tempeh, Sock-Eye Salmon,  flaxseed powder, lots of nuts and seeds, kale/collards and fresh fruit. It really did help with my mental outlook and clarity. I've always been an avid exerciser but now, the last thing I wanted to do was exercise. Just couldn't get into it. I have managed over the past few weeks to do a few work-outs but nothing like before. So I am making some progress. I finally went out to lunch with some of my friends recently but they were kind  of indifferent about my dog leaving me. So, socializing is being kept to a bare minimum. I jut can't handle small talk these days (relationships, politics, the state of world affairs, etc.). That's what I did. 
So you will get better. Good things will happen in your life. It's just going to take some time. Coming to this Forum can be therapeutic (it's been a big help to me). Please keep us posted on your progress. You have enormous support here. We all understand. 

Jim

Jim Miller
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kurt2824
Good morning Jim,

Thank you for your kind, thoughtful reply. I'm so sorry for your loss. And I can totally relate to the trajectory of your capsized life and how it affected you. I've been there - or maybe it's more accurate to say that I am still trying to crawl out of that space where food has no flavor, sleep is elusive, and the joy of living is dulled. And I'm sorry that you had to deal with callous people. Throughout this process, I've had the good fortune to be taken by surprise by the compassion my family, friends, and coworkers have shown when I expected the opposite. And new connections have been forged with people that also treasure their animal companions. But it does take courage to open up to people and take that leap of trust. I am still hesitant about discussing the grieving process in depth or detail - feeling like that might be too much for people to understand or want to hear. And that has brought me here, where people are brutally honest about these experiences. As for socializing - I absolutely couldn't handle being in the house or being still, which gave me no choice but to leave the house. My brain could not compute that our pup was not somewhere in the house or the yard, and every time I had to accept that reality was another stab to the heart. (That's also why I didn't even want to sleep at first, because every time I woke up I had to remember what happened.) In hindsight, this is probably shock, like you mention. I had to change up my normal yoga and weight routines which required too much quiet and stillness, and instead went outside to run under the big sky until I couldn't think any more and some of this turmoil could evaporate into the air. While socializing was, and is, difficult and unappealing, I forced myself to go to work and interact with people as much as possible, because the void our dog left in the home was unbearable. And so is this unstoppable sadness. Even today, I have conversations where I space out for most of it. Nothing really seems important and I have trouble concentrating. 

That different perspective on grief that you offered is helpful - to carry it versus pass through it. Everything I've read so far has talked about actively dealing with or getting through grief - so I've been rather obsessively doing things like memorializing our pet, journaling, etc, with an end goal in mind. An end goal that never seems to get nearer. Maybe accepting these feelings and bringing them into my daily life and mindfulness will help the healing process. 

I will try those herbal sleep aides that you suggested. I'm also not big on pharmaceuticals, but incorporating some herbal remedies into my routine is something I'm comfortable trying. Fingers crossed - because, as you pointed out, sleep and nutrition help prevent sanity from fraying. Thank you for giving me some guidance to keep trying to move forward. Here's to more good things in the future, and to being grateful for what good is still present. -Cris
Cristina Harmelink
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Gucci
Cristina - Words are so inadequate to convey what it's like to lose a dearly beloved animal companion. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's been about 6 weeks since I lost my cat Sammi, who was the light of my life.
There is no schedule, no template, no tried-and-true set of tools; what you do to ease the anguish will have to be bespoke and syncretic. On the sleep front, I'm generally ok (I can't recommend any herbal formulas). I do, however, have to make a concerted effort to get out and about and move. I can function at work, and that provides some structure during the day. The evenings are sometimes pretty brutal.
I take regular walks, and exercise can calm me down. I don't feel like doing it, but I know it's important so I do my best to hew to a routine of movement that I feel I can complete. I also make an effort to avoid sugar/empty carbs, as I find it can exacerbate my negative perspective.
I understand how the texture of daily living has blurred and been leached of colour. I find it very difficult to distract myself at this point, and I'm quite aware that I've moved into the 'daily grind' of grieving. I was able to compartmentalize the first little while and keep busy, but I was aware of a growing sense of anxiety because I knew that underneath lay a huge pool of anguish that I couldn't bear to fully confront.
This past weekend was particularly acute, and I was crying a LOT, which I hadn't done at the beginning. 
It's still agonizing at times; all I can say is that it comes and goes, and all you can do is acknowledge that it's happening, be compassionate with yourself, and let it out in whatever form you need it to be.
I have wonderful family and friends who support me, and this forum has been an utter sanity preserver. We need all the scaffolding and understanding and kindness we can get, and having it from others who've gone through the torment of losing our treasured dogs or cats helps.
There's no way to fast-forward the process; I know from past experience of other losses that it's important to both accept how you're feeling in the moment and at the same time be aware that it's a particular headspace that will evolve (as much as it seems impossible). You're on your own timeline with this, and even as that sounds so lonely, please know that the wonderful people on this forum support you. It may feel like a terrible solitude of grief, but we're all going through a similar process, together. May you find some peace and comfort. 
Gucci

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kurt2824
Hi Jim and Gucci, I just wanted to thank you for your compassion and insight. It has helped tremendously. I've revisited your words many times as I navigate through this grieving process. The holiday season has been especially difficult, and I find myself finding solace and understanding on this forum once more. I hope that you and others who have found themselves in this impossible place of pain and loss can find some amount of peace and joy to ease the hurt - if not in the present, then at least in the memories of those you have loved.  
Cristina Harmelink
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Gucci
Cristina - I hope your holiday season went reasonably well, and I'm glad you find the forum helpful. I've definitely found it to be a balm for my heart on many occasions...

Christmas was ok, but I have to admit that I found New Year's eve a little tough. I caught myself thinking that what I could 'look forward to' was now an entire year without Sammi. That was probably the worst episode for me; otherwise, it was manageable.

I do find myself able to focus for longer periods of time without thinking of Sammi, and I truly did enjoy the activities that I've selectively participated in over the holidays. The trick was that I would go and mingle with human beings, be distracted in a positive way, and leave when I needed to. Having that 'escape route' available made a big difference for me.

I've also found it very helpful to watch certain videos on the topic of grief/grieving. It's helped me better understand the process, what to expect, and how better to support myself. I've also ordered a couple of books on grief (one by Megan Devine called 'It's OK that you're not OK' and another by a UK author named Julia Samuel called 'Grief Works'). I've enjoyed their very honest yet compassionate approach in their interviews, and they don't sugarcoat things, which I appreciate tremendously.

I do hope you've been able to find your footing more easily these days, I'm glad you're still within the community here, and I do wish you peace and respite. Take good care.

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