“Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
I’ve seen more than I can recall
These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”
Last night I dreamed about my dog, Koko. I rarely have dreams about her but she’s always on my mind. Koko died of old age in April 2013. It’s one of the worst kinds of pain I ever experienced. I never felt anything worse.
Just like the sensation I mentioned here before that I experience after losing my human friend, Diane ( here:
https://inspirationalgem.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/rhythm-of-my-heart-3/ ), I have this feeling sometimes, after losing Koko, like a significant part of my physical body is missing, like it has been torn off in some kind of trauma.
Losing Diane and losing Koko are equally painful to me but losing Diane is more traumatic.
This is because I have had pets my whole life, have loved and lost them (usually to old age) for as long as I can remember. Domesticated animals generally do not live as long as people and while I’m never used to losing a pet, I’m more prepared or expectant of it even if it’s completely unexpected, than losing a human friend or family member, especially suddenly or unexpectedly like how we lost Diane.
I always knew that if I live long enough, one day I would be without Koko. I used to feel I couldn’t live without her and I dreaded the day I would be forced to. I used to imagine sometimes, what it would be like if she wasn’t here and I could hardly bear it. But those imaginings prepared me better for it even though that wasn’t my intention. I don’t usually imagine what it will be like without certain people because even though they can die soon, I just don’t expect it to happen. I expect it more with nonhumans. Their lifespan is often no more than fifteen years and they seem to have much for fragile lives than people, at least to me.
Very fortunately, Koko lived a long happy life with my family and me. A few days before she died, I knew she wouldn’t be around much longer. She seemed very aged more than usual and she slowed up and stopped coming to the door to greet me as I came in. She ate her slim jims I gave her as treats, more slowly than ever. It was and still is so painful but my mind was getting prepared as much as it possibly could, to lose her.
She slept in bed with me every night and took naps with me. She slept on my chest almost every night. It was so cute! She was a pom mix and she never barked and was extremely gentle and loving.
She had a warm, gentle energy that I always felt.
Koko died exactly one week before we were going to celebrate her fourteenth birthday with my other dog whose birthday is close to Koko’s. We don’t know Koko’s exact birthday but she was born in April 1999.
It’s hard to handle the fact that she’s gone forever but I accept it and move forward. I always have the loving memories of her. And I was always and still am so thankful to have had her for as long as I did. What better way to go than old age surrounded by love? What better way to lose someone? There isn’t one. We are blessed even when it’s hard to feel it.
It still hurts me sometimes to look at pictures of her. And there are still some moments even almost three years later, where the pain of this loss is so immense it knocks the wind out of me and I feel I can’t go on. These occasions are not frequent but they exist. I think they always will but that’s ok.
There’s another kind of pain that exists now that this loss is no longer very recent. There was something so comforting knowing I just saw her alive a week ago, a few months ago…but as the years go on, the day I last saw her gets further and further away and that’s so painful.
Sometimes I feel like it was all a mistake, all those moments, all those days I realized I can go on even with the pain. I think it was a mistake and that I really can’t. I know it’s not true but it feels that way sometimes.
In my dream I saw her so vividly and it was shocking. In my dream she was still dead and I was looking through old things of mine and came across a video of Koko that just started playing and I was screaming “turn it off, stop, I can’t see it!” My mom was there but I’m not sure who I was yelling to. I was filled with fear and pain to see her moving around on a video so clearly knowing I’ll never see her for real again.
But the video wouldn’t stop playing and as much as I wanted to look away, I couldn’t. I wanted to see my baby again in any way I could no matter how painful.
So while I was filled with fear and agony, I was also filled with deep love, gratitude, beauty, joy….
Then in my dream, Koko materialized or something and became real once again just for a moment for me to hug and to hold. She looked right at me and made eye contact. I was so happy in my dream. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing and my mom too. It was beautiful. It still is beautiful even in my waking hours.
I woke up in pain and gratitude.
The dream stirred up that raw grief in me (or maybe unconscious raw grief provoked the dream?) and there have been moments off and on today when my grief gets overwhelming again and nearly unbearable.
I’m thankful for the dream. I loved seeing her so vividly and feeling all those emotions.
The fact that Koko died of old age doesn’t make my grief and sense of loss any less profound or painful but it is a sense of consolation and contributes to it being less traumatic to me and easier to bear.
Six days after Koko died I thought I wanted to die too. I wasn’t depressed but the pain was so bad. When Koko died, it was six months that I haven’t been suicidal for, which back then, was the longest I was able to go in many years without being suicidal. I did not consider it a relapse because it wasn’t the depressed suicidal. I was just overwhelmed in grief.
It took three months after Koko died, for me to begin feeling like myself again and four months to feel completely like me again.
After losing Koko, I felt like I lost me too. For months I felt numb but with pain and I also felt joy and happiness underneath because I’m naturally very happy. But I did not laugh as much after Koko died. I still found things amusing, things to chuckle about but for months I did not have those deep belly laughs I have almost every day, even when I’m depressed usually. When I’m depressed I can still laugh deeply but not as deeply usually, there’s some kind of damper or something numbing it. But with this grief, I couldn’t even laugh like that.
At first I did not realize what was wrong but I knew something was. I felt very different than usual. Very off. I began to grieve for myself along with my dog. I felt like I not only lost her but lost me too. I felt like I was an almost empty shell of what I was before this significant loss.
There are things this grief took away that even depression doesn’t usually take away, like my ability to be easily amused and laugh hysterically over everything and nothing. Also, my sense of self became weakened. But this experience while weakening it, also helped me strengthen it.
Even with depression, I can usually feel myself underneath but this grief numbed me until I felt not like someone else but a shadow of me.
Depression does worse things usually, in some ways, than grief (like takes away every ounce of pleasure and joy, provokes suicidal inclination…)but there are some things this grief did to me that depression usually doesn’t.
Many occasions I couldn’t be amused over things I usually would be laughing hysterically at and other occasions I would begin to feel amused and consciously or unconsciously talk myself out of it, telling myself I can’t be laughing when Koko just recently died.
The night before Koko died, I got new shirts and whenever I began to be thrilled about them my head would quickly remind me to stop because soon Koko won’t be here anymore.
This isn’t a good thing. And it wasn’t always my conscious decision to not let myself experience joy and laughter.
It was often automatic.
A few months after Koko’s death, I listened to a song sung by Jimmy Buffet and I laughed hysterically, uncontrollably and I instantly felt like me again. It felt like heaven. Like being home again. I found myself again.
Then I listened to more of his songs and laughed even more.
I realized even more how I only felt like a faint shadow of me for the last few months, how I stopped laughing.
This experience helped me realize even more how playful and easily amused I am. I always knew but this experience reminded me even more how much of an integral part of me my playful side is.
I was and am inspired by this experience, this revelation that nothing can take away my true self no matter what. Even if it goes into hiding for a while, scared to come out and play again, my true self is always here and will always resurface. I will laugh again. Love again. Live again.
I’m not thankful that Koko died but I’m thankful for the experience surrounding my loss. I can still see light and beauty in it even through the agony.
It’s also interesting to view it in comparison with the loss of my human friend. The pain is very similar but both losses have differences also and challenges that the other one does not have so much. In some ways it’s harder to endure the situation of losing Diane but in other ways it’s more difficult to endure the situation of losing Koko. This isn’t because the loss of one is more painful or greater or because one is loved more. There are different factors associated with some losses that may contribute to it being more difficult to handle one loss in some ways, than another.
We can love two people who die, equally, but still find the loss of one more difficult for whatever reason. Maybe the one loss was more unexpected or tragic or whoever the person is to us somehow makes it seem more difficult to lose that one. Losing a child, for example, is most likely the most unexpected loss. And losing a pet is probably more expected to many, than losing a human friend or family member. Losing someone to homicide or suicide or some other senseless way is probably more difficult to cope with for many people than loss to a heart attack or an illness that couldn’t be prevented. This isn’t necessarily true for everyone but definitely some.
I think it’s best not to judge others based on our own or other people’s experiences. Just because I find something easier or more difficult doesn’t mean someone else does.
And just because I react a certain way when I feel a certain way doesn’t mean someone who reacts differently than I do, feels differently. Two people can both feel a similar emotion or have a similar opinion but react very differently. Two people can be just as devastated but one cries and one doesn’t or one can get out of bed and one feels like s/he cannot.
This is another great way to cope with tragedy and significant losses and other pain and difficulty, to view the situation with curiosity, wonder, and fascination instead of just all in a negative light.
My dream, while seemingly simple, is so thought provoking and inspiring and sad and beautiful.
I am reminded to let me laugh when I feel the urge no matter what is going on. It’s ok to laugh. To repress my mirth won’t bring back the dead or heal the tragedy or reverse the destruction in the world. All repression of joy & laughter serves to do is have even less joy in the world. Dwelling on pain just brings more pain. It perpetuates the seriousness and devastation.
I hope if you are grieving or experiencing another kind of pain, you find some sense of consolation and beauty even through the darkness and still let yourself laugh and live. It’s ok and laughing is good for healing.
We don’t have to be so serious.
Life doesn’t have to be so serious.
Hugs to you and much love & light, always,