In this time of grieving for Sophie in the last couple of days of my holiday break, I feel like I’m in limbo- ranging from feeling emotionally numb to being racked with sobs. There are reminders and triggers everywhere I look, sounds that I hear that just have to be her walking right behind me as she always did, my shadow. There is such a tear in the fabric of our home, with both humans and animals seeming very subdued and off kilter. It is so very quiet with only the sound of the rain and our memories dancing around everywhere.
We usually wait until after Twelfth Night to take down our Christmas decorations, but we felt after Sophie’s sudden loss that we needed a project and a return to our normal routine. As I took certain ornaments off of the tree to carefully pack them away, memories flooded my mind and tears stung my eyes.
I realize that Sophie’s loss is not just about her, as precious as she was and always will be to me. It is also her connection to my mother, the last living daily reminder of my mother’s great love. Sophie loved me in that unconditional way that dogs do, but it always felt like she had taken on the mantle of watching over me as Mom always had. With Sophie, I felt like I still had a tangible piece of my mother still with me, giving me comfort and solace after what was the most difficult loss of my life.
It’s still difficult for me to grasp all of the implications of this thread of connection being severed. I’m sure it will take much more chewing and writing (writing helps me process things like nothing else can), and working with the therapist who helped me navigate Mom’s loss. I am open to the lessons, realizing that grief is like an onion with so many different layers. Mom and my first soul dog, Guinness.
As I look back from the vantage of time, I see that dogs have marked distinct eras in my adult life. My first soul dog Guinness, in my life for almost sixteen years, was a connection to my mother and defined my first marriage, staying with me until I transitioned to a new life in Birmingham and marriage to Dan. Sophie and Cooper came to heal my heart from Guinness’ loss, and both of them are irrevocably entwined with my mom, with each other, and in defining the chapter of my life with Dan so far.
Sophie protected my mom and brought her great comfort when she came to live in Birmingham in the last years of her life, and then Sophie protected my heart and brought great comfort to me when my mother was no longer there. She made me feel that she was charged with being my guardian angel, and in her soulful eyes I guess I always felt my mother close to me. With Sophie’s loss, I am revisiting my grief over my mother, Guinness, and Cooper, but mostly the vast well of pain from losing Mom.
After Mom died I worked hard to face my grief, to sit with it, flow with it, but our hearts never truly heal from such devastating blows; we only learn to live around those holes left by great love, locking away the pain into a vault buried deep within. All it takes is a certain memory, a certain song or smell- or another loss- to unlock the vault and bring the pain rushing back.
I will honor the grief, dance slowly with it and not rush it, waiting until the door of the vault finally swings shut again, the holes in my heart still there, but light pouring in from my gratitude in having such great love in my life. Always always worth whatever pain it brings in the wake of its loss.