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Grief comes in many different forms for each person. Sometimes you don’t feel the full weight of your loss right away, and other times the pain will come all at once. You are in a state of composure one second and the next you can’t stop yourself from hysterically crying. There is no perfect way to grieve, nor should there be any expectations for the process.

In my own experience, I finally learned what it is like to grieve right before the beginning of my junior year of college when my childhood pet of 13 years never returned home. He was an outdoor animal, so it wasn’t unusual or alarming for him to be gone for more than one day at a time. But when three days passed, and then one week, and then two weeks, we knew we had to say our goodbyes. The hardest part for me, however, was the realization that I would never actually get to say goodbye to him because I didn’t know that one day was going to be our last one together. Without knowing it at the time, I put him down and would never pick him back up again. I turned my eyes away from him and would never be able to catch a glimpse of him again.

I wanted to be strong, but I couldn’t hide the fact that I was hurting. For 13 years of my life, since I was 7 years old, he had been there when I was at home. When we first brought him home, I would spend every second I could playing with him and feeding him all of the food off of my dinner plates. When I was homeschooled he would sit on my lap while I did homework, and scratch his face up against my pencil. When I grew up he was always there to comfort me when I was going through hard times and just needed a source of connection and understanding. Of course, I knew these days couldn’t last forever, but all I have ever wanted since is just one more. 

These days, coming home no longer gives me the warm and fuzzy feeling inside when all I can feel instead is an overwhelming cloud of absence. No matter how much time passes, I can’t stop myself from searching for him when I walk through the door or asking my parents where he is hiding. And when the realization hits again, it’s all I can do to keep myself from feeling like I just had the wind knocked out of me. Most painful of all, however, is that I can no longer tell people “He is my best friend” and instead I have to force myself to say “He was my best friend”. 

Pets have a profound impact on the lives of others that humans cannot experience in the same way. They offer us a bond that lasts beyond their time on Earth, which is why the grieving process is especially difficult. If you are currently experiencing this, give yourself some grace. Closure will come when it’s ready.

Rachel Murray

Augustana '23

Rachel is a third-year student at Augustana College majoring in Accounting and Finance. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and watching documentaries. Instagram: @rach.murrayy
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