I decided not to go to church this morning. I could just tell that the first time someone asked me how I was doing (after putting Freckles down), I would turn into a blubbering mess. Sometimes my emotions are like that — just the situation of someone asking me how I’m doing triggers a meltdown, not necessarily because I’m feeling particularly sad at that moment, but in part because I know I want to hold myself together — so of course, the opposite happens.
Fortunately, Hubby seemed to understand the situation and was not grumpy about my absence from church. He had to be there this morning to help with the service. Hubby told me after church that the veterinary clinic secretary, who is a church member, asked him how he was doing. He responded that he was doing “okay” but didn’t really want to talk about it. That tells me that He is really hurting; usually these kinds of conversations aren’t a problem for him.
Hubby was the one who brought Freckles to the vet and was with her in her final moments, so I think he has even more to deal with than I do.
My feelings of panic and grief didn’t really get bad until the middle of the afternoon today. Sometimes, I feel like I’m going on with my (relatively) normal life, and the fact that Freckles isn’t with us is a sad but minor background detail.
Other times, I feel overwhelmed with the sadness that Freckles is gone. I worry that the sadness will be too much to deal with and, I suppose, that I won’t feel happy or normal anymore. I suppose the anxiety (which feels like tightness in my chest, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, and uncontrolled tears) is because I don’t know how to live without Freckles; I don’t know what life without her looks like. It is change, and it’s not “fun” change like getting accustomed to a giant new television.
It is funny that I seem to have two modes. One mode is logical, reasonable, and calm. That mode understands that when you choose to begin a new chapter of life that includes a pet, you are also choosing to accept that at some point, another chapter of life without that pet will begin. That mode understands that the house and family will feel different without Freckles, but that we can and will get used to it. This logical mode realizes that some aspects of life will be calmer and simpler without Freckles, especially since she had some quirks that made her hard to live with.
The other mode is grief-stricken, miserable, and panicky. When I’m in that mode, I feel…. lost. Unsure how to go on without Freckles, even though I didn’t spend all that much time doting on her after her first few years with us. (We had our first child three years after we adopted Freckles, and, as many pet-owners-turned-parents have discovered, things change once a child comes along.) In grief mode, my inner monologue says, “I can’t believe I’ll never see Freckles again. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to lose her. Did I appreciate her enough when she was with us? How do I live in this house without having Freckles here? Will I always feel this sad when I realize that there is no dog here to eat up the crumbs? When will I stop feeling so sad and panicky?”
As I told a friend of mine who understands pet-owner stuff and also anxiety stuff, I feel like my anxiety issues have a life of their own and are making grieving Freckles much more complicated. I can pinpoint various times in my life when these waves of anxiety, which feel very icky and almost feel like being sick, were a problem. As a grade-schooler, I went to summer camp several different times, and I remember homesickness being a problem. The physical feelings that I called “homesickness” were exactly the same feelings I have now that Freckles is gone. I may have been having a nice time with my fellow campers, then during a lull I would have a thought about home, and *bam*, the tears, tightness in the chest, and so on would overcome me.
I also remember a time in my childhood, I suppose I was about 8 years old, where I would be playing at a friend’s house in my neighborhood, and then I would feel overwhelmed with the desire to go home. I didn’t want anyone to know I was feeling this way, so I would keep it to myself and find some reason to go home if I couldn’t get the feeling to go away. I remember thinking it was silly to feel this way; I was close to home and was having a nice time with a friend, so what was there to feel panicky about?
When I was 16 years old, I flew overseas to be an exchange student for the summer. I remember that after I got settled into my bedroom at my host family’s home, the feelings of homesickness, panic, and anxiety were very, very intense. Looking back, I can see that it’s normal to feel homesick in a situation like that, but the way that I experienced that homesickness was probably not “normal.”
After the birth of each of my sons, and especially after the birth of my second son, I went through a period of feeling so panicky and tearful that I thought I might need help. Oh, how embarrassing it was when my midwife returned my call (my husband’s call, actually) and I cried and gasped my way through the entire call. I did my best to hide these struggles from my parents and from most of my friends, because I found it embarrassing and I wasn’t sure how to even explain what was going on. Postpartum panic?
It’s time to wrap up this blog post. If you have any insights to share or can relate to anything I’ve written, do let me know in the Comments.