The Seven Stages of Grief

The Seven Stages of Grief

A Story by Amanda
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This is a writing I did after the loss of my dog, Shay. Writing allowed me to process my feelings systematically and understand how I was feeling in a means that would allow me to better cope.

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The Seven Stages of Grief

The seven stages of grief are seven feelings I am not all that familiar with. I have been lucky enough to go through life with little loss, and therefore, little grief. Though I’ve likely felt each of these feelings at one point or another, the times in which I did just don’t seem relevant now. I experienced and I moved on, as one does every day. Though I recently had a new experience that allowed me to rethink the way I handled my emotions. Moments where I decided to think about what I was feeling, why I was feeling it, and allowed myself to really, truly feel. I recently said goodbye to my foster dog. Her name was Shay, and she was a beautiful, grey, good tempered, and kind hearted pit bull. I can honestly say I’ve never met a dog quite like her. Laid back and full of life at the same time. An old soul and a newborn puppy all in the same dog. I work in rescue so it would be assumed that I am used to seeing dogs come and go, but this one was different. This was my grandfather's dog, the last living piece of his existence, she was family. She came to us with a horrible skin condition called mange, but we took her in and loved her the same. She lived a fun filled life of walks, treats, toys and naps. Until she got worse. Eventually, the infection she had come with turned systemic and it began to change her. Not only did she get more uncomfortable, but her personality began to shift. She wasn’t herself. She was different. It was no longer humane to keep her going in her miserable state, with nothing but medications and bland diets to keep her as healthy as she could be. We decided it was her time.

This was the first time I really began to experience the so-called “seven stages.” The seven stages of grief begin with shock. At the time, Shay was living with a different foster while my family dealt with our own internal issues. When we got the call that Shay was going to be put to sleep I did not even take the time to process the information. I knew it was the right decision, but was unsure of how anyone could just accept news of this nature. She’d lived her whole life with this condition, and the time had finally arrived to make the call. With everything else going on, it felt very out of the blue.

The next stage I entered was denial, the day we were to get Shay and bring her to her final resting place, my home. We picked her up from her foster at the time and greeted her as we would always. I called her by her nickname, Miss Say Say, and we loaded her into the car atop fluffy blankets and along with her favorite toy. We joked the whole way home that she smelled, we got her a puppicino and I told her she couldn’t steal the treats from the front seat. I pet her head and allowed her to give me her giant tongue kisses. A normal day with Shay. When we got her home we took her for a walk, our usual visit routine. We gave her her favorite bone to chew on while we were busy, and allowed her to sleep comfortably when she wanted to. We took her to meet a horse at the farm down the street, and even stopped to talk to the neighbor next door. Everything felt so normal. So natural. So routine. It was as if we were spending the day with her only to hand her back to her other fosters. The reality was so much worse. So I denied it. I denied for as long as I could, until the vet pulled into the driveway around 2:45.

The third stage of grief is anger. I don’t recall exactly when this emotion was felt, nor how I reacted to it, but who wouldn’t feel angry in a situation like this?  During the time of a global pandemic, I am thrown out of my school, away from what and who I love, and now I must put one of my best friends to sleep. Another loss in this never ending cycle of misfortune. I knew my mom would be stressed about the whole situation, and I worry anytime stress is involved with her. I was angry she had to feel this way. Not to mention being angry for Shay. A beautiful, wonderful animal was born with this awful skin condition. As if that is not uncomfortable or unfortunate enough, it is one with no cure. She is forced into a life of itch and flavorless food. She is constantly passed from owner to owner, and never saw her forever family happy ending. I am angry for her. Though I know if she could talk she would be grateful for anyone who offered her help. She was just that kind of dog. Loved unconditionally and endlessly and loved everyone just the same.

I was not familiar with the concept of bargaining as far as the 7 stages of grief go. My understanding is looking for a way so as to not deal with the current situation. I certainly had issues with this one. If I do not spend as much time with Shay, I will not miss her as much once she’s gone. But why would I ignore her, when I can seize the opportunity to make new, lasting memories with her. To make up for the time with her that I lost. To make her finals day the best one she’s had. If I do not watch the process, it will not hit me as hard. Why would I choose to not be there with her in her final moments? Why would I make my mother stay and deal with this hardship on her own? Why would I miss out on any opportunity I have to say goodbye, give her one last kiss and tell her I love her. I bargained with myself the entire day to keep myself from feeling this loss, when what I really needed was time to process it. Looking back, I don’t regret my decision to stay. I knew, as we laid her down to sleep, that she knew how much she was loved. That I was there for her, and that I was a step on her journey to peace.

Though I found myself rather composed during the process, the depression truly hit as I stand in my bedroom, left alone with my thoughts, her collar in hand. I cried. I cried tears of true loss, and I continued to cry as I recounted the time I’d spent with her that day. I cried at the thought of saying hello and goodbye to her in the span of a couple hours, both for the very last time. As I washed the blood from her collar the scent of her I had smelt in the car earlier that day wafted towards me. As though she was still standing next to me, right there in the very same room. I stripped the clothes covered in her fur from my body and even shed tears at the thought of washing her from them. I got into the shower and washed my face, burning from the wet eyes and dry nose. I washed her kisses from my face and her touch from my hands. I said goodbye to her all over again, this time in the presence of only myself and my raw emotion. No longer feeling the need to put on a brave face or an unbothered show. I even cry as I write this. The feelings of depression are unmatched to any other sadness, and much harder to cure in short amounts of time. This was what feeling truly felt like.

I suppose the 6th stage, testing, is what I am doing now. Finding ways to cope with my loss and manage the emotions I am left feeling. Though writing this is breaking my heart as much as it is mending it, I feel very proud to be able to express myself in such a sophisticated and powerful way. When I look to my right I can see Shay’s pink checkered collar sitting atop my vanity. I am yet to decide what exactly I will do with it, but I find comfort in knowing I have something to remember her by that was once a part of her. Almost in the literal sense. I also think back to the process, euthanasia, though that does not sound very restful. I had never before seen this process, for I was too young to come into the room in past times and even then have had few times to do so. It is a simple process, though difficult to watch. As the vet injected the sedative, I watched Shay become more and more sleepy. She fought hard for her wakefulness but as the medicine became more prevalent in her system I watched her slowly sink, until she lay in front of me, still. We pet her and said goodbye. Told her we loved her and gave her a final kiss. We told her how she was a great dog and would no longer itch. How this was the right decision. With that, the vet injected the final medicine. We watched as she listened to her heart stop beating. “She’s gone.” Though I was crying, I felt an overwhelming euphoria. I was at peace with the situation, knowing it was the right thing to do. Perhaps I would be on the other side of it someday as an aspiring Veterinarian. Maybe this is just something you get used to. I was able to cope on these ideas. Though it did not make it that much easier, it was definitely a start.

It is too soon to accept this situation, though that is the 7th step on the stages of grief, and perhaps the road to recovery. It has only been a few hours since her passing and only now could I even get myself to discuss it on paper. I posted about her and allowed people to give their condolences, though I don’t feel much in the mood for conversation. I have been able to laugh and smile since her passing, though I am crying as I write, staring at her collar through sunken eyes and blurry tears. I know there will come a time where I will be able to remember Shay at her best. Only through fond memories and silly pictures. But right now is not that time, and that’s okay. Everybody grieves with unique methods in different amounts of time. Nobody would expect me to move on as though this wasn’t happening. As though my feelings weren’t valid. This journey may be long, or may be short, but regardless there are thoughts I am able to keep with me throughout it. Shay is in a better place. This was the right decision. Shay was an amazing dog who I loved dearly. I will miss her. Life will continue. She will forever be a part of you. You will always have her in your memories. She will never forget you. For you allowed her to finally have her happy ending.

 


© 2020 Amanda


Author's Note

Amanda
Please do not copy or steal, this is an original work and I take pride in it.

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Added on May 29, 2020
Last Updated on May 29, 2020
Tags: loss, grief, sadness, pets, dogs, love, bargaining, denial, acceptance, hope, anger, depression, testing, the seven stages

Author

Amanda
Amanda

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A College Student who spends my free time writing. I will be posting college works and free writes, many of which are emotionally charged and unfiltered. Aside from being a hopeful writer, I am als.. more..

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