Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Grieving the Loss of a Pet: My Sweet Martini

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my little Martini's passing. I had written this post last year, but there never seemed to be an appropriate time to post it. I wanted to share it today, in his honor and in an effort to quell my still present grief and to share my experience with our Thriving readership.

I have been very fortunate in my life for many reasons, but one of them is that I haven't really felt the deep aching pain that comes with losing a loved one. Almost all of my grandparents passed away when I was young, and I was simply not very close to other family members that left this world. I have witnessed other people experiencing this loss, and my heart certainly ached for them, but I did not know that overwhelming feeling of grief first hand. So, I considered myself pretty lucky, until the inevitable day that it happened to me as well.

My first stint as a Thriving Mama started when little Martini came into my life. He was everything a girl could want from a furbaby, and our love and bond were most certainly mutual. Sadly, he crossed the rainbow bridge in July of 2012, from a wild coyote attack that took place right in front of me.

Going through the journey of grieving his loss was an interesting one for me. I tend to be very cerebral - meaning that I am constantly analyzing my own thoughts and reactions to every situation. I can never just feel something, I have to think about why I'm feeling this and what it means, over and over. In any case, now that I am a bit separated from the initial shock and grief, I think that what I went through is worth sharing, because I surprised myself by dealing with it in what I consider to be an extremely healthy manner. We all know the "stages of grief", but my journey was a little different.


I was numb, my mind was racing, and I literally could not process what was happening right before my eyes. It wasn't real, and I remember not being able to cry. I even thought "why am I not crying? I'm in so much pain, and am screaming, but there are no tears". Later that day, as my husband and Em consoled me, the tears did finally come and did not stop for many days. The very worst part of the traumatic way in which Martini died, is that those images are forever burned into my mind. They still appear when I least expect it, most often at night as I shut my eyes to go to sleep, and I just hope that at some point they disappear forever.


I never really got angry, per se, but I did experience a devastating amount of guilt. So perhaps my anger at myself manifested this way. The unending guilt was by far the worst part. "I should've been able to save him", I thought. It was my fault he wasn't on a leash, I should've been paying better attention, etc. Over and over and over I repeated these words of guilt, despite everyone telling me I need to forgive myself. Forgiving yourself is quite possibly the hardest thing anyone can do, I think. There was also a little bit of guilt for feeling so upset over a dog. People lost children, parents, spouses and other humans every day - who cares about my dog? I came to realize that this wasn't a competition, and it was ok to dwell in the loss of someone I was deeply connected to, because it's a very personal experience. 


If I went through this stage, it was very brief. I knew for 100% sure that Martini was gone and never coming back. Someone even said to me that in a way it was good I witnessed his death, because if he just ran away one day or died in someone else's care, I might always wonder if he was out there somewhere. What I know I did feel, perhaps instead of this, was extreme loneliness. We had recently adopted another puppy (you may recognize Sandy from some of our Instagram pics), and since I also live with my husband, it would seem impossible to be lonely. But I was, because he was a part of me. He was a very real little bundle of love that permeated every aspect of my life, and missing that made me extremely lonely. In an effort to fill this void, I allowed myself to talk about him as much as I wanted, and let the tears flow (like they are at this very moment while I write). I slowly started being able to be around more people too, which helped curb the loneliness. Once I was functioning better, I made it a point to surround myself with happy friends and family.


This may be a controversial topic, especially because mental health is a fairly taboo subject, but I feel no shame in telling my story accurately. I have struggled with depression on/off for many years, and was taking anti-depressants for the first half of 2012. I had JUST weaned myself off of them before Martini died, because TH and I were talking about starting a family. After Martini died, I was terrified my depression was going to take hold again and did not want to go down that road again, especially because I had been feeling so much better. My solution was to take anti-anxiety medication instead, mostly so that I could sleep but also to allow myself to perform daily tasks without breaking down into a massive panic attack. This worked very well for me, because it was a temporary solution and I made an effort to see it that way. I didn't even finish my prescription, which I am proud of because my focus was using my own cognitive abilities to feel better. 


I am still working on acceptance of what happened. There will always be days I am sad he is gone, and even though the pain is fading, my memories of him are fading as well which is sad. I am grateful to have friends and family who love me, without them this journey would have been impossible. My favorite way they showed their support was how they all shared personal stories of their interactions with Martini. It made me so proud that my little pup touched so many other lives than just my own. 


When I look back at the past 4 months, I'm kind of amazed at how things went. I think what was most important for me was to really allow myself to feel those icky terrible grieving emotions, in order to process and move on in a healthy way. Even the most inspirational of self-help gurus would not expect people to forcibly stay happy all the time. We need some darkness in order to recognize the light in our lives - contrast is what makes life interesting and pleasurable. 

I'm not here to tell anyone else how to deal with grief, or judge anyone for doing it differently. Grieving is such a personal experience that it would be wrong of me to think that way. All I want is to share my experience, in the hope that it reaches someone who benefits from it in any way. I want Martini's life and memory to be a celebration and to bring happiness to as many people as possible, even though he is now gone. If any of you have stories about losing a pet, I would love to hear them.

Enjoy the below gratuitously cute pics of my little guy at his best...

As a tiny puppy - barely bigger than a Victorias Secret pink dog! 
It was tough to find balls small enough for his little mouth, but his favorite activity by far was fetch.

Little dogs always seem to be cold, and Tini was no exception - hot laundry (especially Daddy's undies)  always included a furry little surprise. 

Sunbathing was probably his second favorite activity.

I could never resist giving into that face.

I guess third on the list of favorites would be snuggling - he never left my side unless he had to, always wanting to share the blankets. 

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  1. Oh poor little Martini! He was so cute. How awful that it happend in front of you - I cannot even imagine. This is a nice tribute to him.

    1. Thanks Raquel! It has been hard but doing things like this to remember him really helps. He'll always be my first baby.

      Strive to Thrive,

  2. I never knew the story about how Martini passed on until now. I can only imagine how traumatic that must have been for you, and I'm so sorry that you had to go through that experience. I really admire the creativity you used and courage it took you to post this piece for the world to read. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Aww well thank you! I wish I knew who this was but I appreciate your comment all the same!

      Strive to Thrive,


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