When Mirja attended a recent pet loss workshop, she shared a story with the group that touched everyone to the core. She had discovered a strategy for surviving the painful and profound loss of her boxer Stella. Prior to her death, Stella drank excessive quantities of water and Mirja needed to take her out to the back yard every night at 4AM. She would talk to her: “Ok, Mama gonna’ take you out to pee.”
And the dog would follow her outside. Then she would bring her in with words of comfort and encouragement, ”Are you ready to go in now?” and they’d return to the house and back to bed. This became routine every night for months. After Stella died, Mirja was unable to sleep at night, tossing and turning night after night. Finally she got up at 4AM and said to the empty space next to her,
“Ok, Mamma gonna’ take you out to pee.” And she walked out to the back yard and waited a few moments, and then with the same words she used to recall her dog, she and an invisible Stella came back to bed and Mirja fell asleep immediately. She was not hallucinating. She knew Stella wasn’t really there, but somehow this ritual helped her regain her balance. The group talked about their own private rituals, very different than public displays of funerals, memorials, services and other common rituals. This was private and mostly secretive, for fear people would think we were crazy. I shared that after Gracie and Tabatha both died a week apart, and the house was deadly silent, I would fall asleep petting an invisible cat lying next to me in bed as there had always been one near me that I petted before falling asleep. I had not talked about this “silly” bedtime ritual until now. And the group came to realize that these rituals helped us feel we still had some control over our lives, that things were “normal” and not chaotic. It was comforting, and familiar. It was also a way to keep the connection with our beloved friend for as long as we needed to. So another strategy for coping with loss of a beloved pet has been added to the list. Thank you, Mirja Bishop.
Is there a private ritual that you use that has helped you through this time of loss and devastation? Would you like to share it?