After all, every Christmas society has a fresh human tragedy. We fear sounding trivial unburdening ourselves about how much we miss our pets. This year it's the loss of 20 very young children in Newtown, Connecticut. How can we dare share emotional space with those 20 sets of parents!
Well, we can't do much about how society rules on whose grief matters the most. But we can help ourselves feel the authenticity of our own loss. This Christmas animal lovers can give themselves the book "Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die" by Jon Katz. In 166 pages, Katz gives us every tool we need to navigate pet grief, even in the toughest times such as Christmas.
Surprisingly, Katz starts the book out telling us about Orson, the troubled dog who bit people, despite the thousands of dollars he spent on myriad kinds of canine therapies. The right thing to do, and the vet agreed, was to put Orson down. That left Katz with a most complex type of grief and he couldn't let it out.
"I resisted telling the people I loved how much I hurt, how much I mourned for this troubled dog."
Somehow we get the message from society that we better shut down the feelings and move on. Even Katz, who seems pretty in touch with his emotions, surrended to what he saw as the social norm.
Then he goes on to explain how he has grieved for not only other dogs but also the ewes and steers who lived with him and his wife on Bedlam Farm. "Pets" come in many forms. And when they leave, Katz hammers, we have a perfect right and responsibility to mourn.
As I was driving to a holiday party this week, I remembered how Molly Mittens was there for me as I put back my business in 2004. The vet said she had hung on so long with her bad heart to keep me going. She died on that vet's table in July 2006. My tears still come. No one had ever cared about me as had Molly Mittens. No, I haven't moved on from the grief, not yet. Maybe I never will and, according to Katz, so what.