Coping with grief

Coping with grief

Coping with grief

 

Last Friday, we lost our dog, Evie Wonder.

 

We think she was almost twelve but we aren’t too sure as we rescued her from Manchester Dogs Home (who do a fantastic job by the way!). She was like our first baby and we had her seven years.

 

We loved her. We used to take her on long walks whatever the weather and when we couldn’t do that, we found the best people we could to look after her. I remember being incredibly upset when we went away for a month to Eastern Europe because we had to leave her!

 

As time went on, we had our daughter and poor Evie moved down the pecking order a bit, but then we all did, so I don’t think she minded too much! Post-natally, She helped me get fit again because having a dog just makes you get out of the house. Getting out of the house makes you feel good, even if you wake up at 6am and could think of nothing worse. Once me and my little Evie were out it set us up both  for the day!

 

When we had our son, there was even more change for her and I feel bad that I didn’t have as much time to give Evie. She was always so polite and waited. She benefited hugely from having children around though. The extra fuss and a LOT of extra food came her way with two new humans sitting in the high chair.

 

She had separation anxiety which drove me up the wall, if I’m being honest, but was lovely in the same way. We just don’t know what happened to her in her first five years or so. She was picked up on the streets in Stockport and then taken to the Dogs’ Home. Who knows what she had been through.

 

We had some great laughs with her. I felt guilty that times had changed and her quality of life might not have been so great towards the end, because we had to prioritise our children. I’m not going to lie, having the extra responsibility of the dog to look after felt like a burden sometimes.

 

On a positive note, we gave her a great life! She was so well looked after. She had the best food, grooming and walks every day without fail. On the rare occasion we couldn’t walk her, she played out in the garden with my husband and the children and had lots of love.

Evie and Georgia

Evie waiting for the food machine to drop something! 

Loss

 

This week has been awful. The house without her is just not the same. We love being at home and we miss her so much. I’ve never been a major animal lover but Evie changed that. I never quite ‘got it’ when people talked about the grief of their dog dying. ‘They’re just animals’, I thought, ‘Humans are more important!’ Maybe they are, but there’s something about my dog being around that was different. Her death has affected us just as much as the people we have lost in our lives.

 

We were fortunate in a way that it was a Friday when she went, because we had the weekend to come to terms with our loss. I was seriously thinking the other day, how would work react if I said I couldn’t go in because my dog has died! Can you imagine? But these feelings are real, so I just wanted to acknowledge them today. I also wanted to acknowledge that we are forced to balance those feelings with the need to just get on with it! We have two young children and they showed no mercy last weekend when we could have really done with taking it easy! Ha. That’s life.

 

It made me think about grief generally and how we can help ourselves to manage it. Remember that grief doesn’t have to be about someone’s death. It can be about losing someone we love who is still with us, but perhaps not the same person as before.

 

Coping

 

I was introduced to a fabulous tool that I’ve been able to use this week when I’ve been thinking about coping with my own grief. This tool is called the change curve and was originally developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book, ‘Death and Dying’, which was published in 1969. This model has been adapted to use in any sort of change and I used to teach it to others. This is the first time I have gone back to it to help with a personal issue and it has worked.

 

The Change Curve

Change curve

 

The left hand axis shows our emotional response and the horizontal axis represents time. People go through the stages at their own pace and it is really crucial we remember this when we think ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’. Some people are more resilient than others. The 5 stages of grief are:

  1. Denial- we might be in shock and cannot accept what has happened. As we have not accepted the change has happened, our emotional response is not affected.
  2. Anger- we could look for someone to blame or blame ourselves or others, or even experience guilt, as I described above.
  3. Bargaining- where we try and put off the inevitable- we could have done this by bringing our Evie home from the vet, or asking for a second opinion, or leaving her for the weekend to try and recover, but when we both went back to see her, we knew it was her time to go.
  4. Depression- we start accepting our loss and this is where our emotions are mostly affected, bringing feelings of overwhelming sadness or depression.
  5. Acceptance- when we move through to acceptance we experience a period where we try and get used to living in a different way and dealing with the change. We start experimenting with the new change and this helps us to move through it. This is where we are at today, a week after Evie passed away.

I am naturally task focused so I like to make sense of things and try and find a way to move on. I am also an extremely emotional person so remembering this helpful tool has helped me feel more comfortable with the emotion we have felt this week.

It is important to remember that people move through this cycle at different paces. Nobody is the same. Some people get stuck and this is where we can become depressed, anxious or bitter, so it’s useful to understand that these feelings are a natural part of change, but in order to move on, we must be able to work through these feelings.

Some advice i got over on my Facebook page to do just that is:

“Let yourself feel sad. Remember your loved one with joy and happiness. I call it my pit of sadness, once you hit the bottom of the pit the only way is back up. Grief is real and you can’t avoid it. Be good to yourself and don’t fight the grief, just allow it to happen.”

“A bit of wallowing and wailing followed by a good walk and fresh air to kick start the endorphins.
And sleep.”

And my top tip is to remember the good times!

Happy Evie

On our way for a walk 🙂

 

Applying the change curve to your own life

 

Think about a change, grief or loss that you have been through and how you can apply it to the change curve.

Remember that the feelings we experience during any sort of change are NORMAL. Go with them and refer back to this because it certainly has helped me this week.

 

I can help

 

My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area or via Skype.

I also have an online therapeutic programme. Take a look at my services here

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Take care,

 

Victoria.