Nella Coiro

The Pain of Losses

As you know, I write my blogs and my books based upon my own experiences, in the hope that it might help someone else. This week I want to talk about loss. As many of you know,  I don’t have children, and I treat and look upon my animal companions as my children. (If you are someone who has the philosophy “It’s just a dog”, then you might not want to read the rest of this blog, and that’s okay.) 

A week ago today, on 9/10, I lost Penelope, my basset hound of 11 years, and so I am completely heartbroken. Although I believe that her spirit lives on, and we will reunite in the afterlife, this doesn’t ease the pain of her physical loss. Today we picked up her urn with her ashes, and her collar, and I cannot put into words how upsetting this was. We were particularly upset by seeing her collar. Every morning we heard her collar jingle as she came into the bedroom to wake us up and greet us. It symbolizes so much. The mutual love — the mutual joy of waking up and greeting each other.

Since it’s been a few years since I lost my other basset hound, I forgot the intensity of this pain. It’s a pain that feels like someone has ripped my heart into shreds. To me, there isn’t a difference between losing my hound or losing a human being. And since I’ve been running a group for several years for those grieving the loss of their animal companions, I know that many share these feelings. Since her loss was sudden, shocking and unexpected, this made it even more upsetting. I miss her so much.

And so, I would like to share some insights. For myself, this loss was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” In the past few weeks, I was sick, needed to test for COVID-19, and thank God I was negative. Since the test results took time, I was shipped off to another dialysis center which was an hour away, because I needed two negatives before I could return to my dialysis center. Then I developed a blood clot in my hemodialysis graft and needed an emergency procedure. Let’s just say that shit relentlessly kept happening in my life non-stop.

Besides this, I’m trying to get on transplant lists and I’m told that the waiting list is 5-8 years long. Therefore, theoretically, I might spend the next 5-8 years going to dialysis three times a week, three hours each treatment… this has become my life. Right now I feel that I’ve run out of strength and resilience, and it has become hard to pray because I feel that my prayers aren’t being heard. (I am hoping that this will change with time.) So, as much as I’d like to think of myself as a badass warrior, I am forced to face the fact that I’m a vulnerable human being.

What is the lesson here? What is the struggle about? I think that it’s all about dealing with loss… loss of someone I deeply loved… loss of strength... loss of stamina… loss of resilience… loss of faith and spirituality… loss of autonomy… loss of health… loss of independence... loss of control... loss of the illusion of power.

Maybe you’ve been there yourself, or perhaps you can identify with some of these feelings. If you have, I feel your pain.

Let’s begin with the lose of a loved one… Whenever we make ourselves vulnerable and allow ourselves to love either an animal or another person, we are at risk to eventually feel the pain of loss. The greater the love, the deeper the pain of the loss. Since animals love us unconditionally, we share a special bond and a unique type of love with them.

And yet, I wouldn’t change a thing, because I enjoyed the 11 years I’ve shared with her, loved her, took care of her, and gave her a good and happy life. And, she taught me so many lessons and helped to mold me in significant ways. The pain I’m feeling right now because of her physical loss doesn’t negate the eleven years that we shared, nor does it negate the importance of her life.

The Buddhists talk about impermanence, and that it is our obsession with attachment that always gets us into trouble. We go through life clinging to one thing or one person after another, hoping to find happiness. Love and it’s intensity complicates this even further. Then we get frustrated when the world doesn't behave according to our needs and wants. We suffer because we can’t accept that everything is impermanent, including relationships and life itself. Nothing will last forever. Most of us live in denial and we’re too afraid to face this truth about loss.

This loss of Penelope, my fur-child was devastating, and caused me to think about, and triggered the pain of other losses, and, as mentioned above, I’ve had quite a few, especially in this last year. As I contemplated, I was able to see that there are some similarities between all losses. 

First and foremost, it’s frustrating and terrifying to realize how incredibly powerless we are, especially concerning health, life and death. This has to be one of the worst feelings in the world. Second, we struggle with letting go, especially if we love someone. Third, we become angry with the God of our understanding because we feel we aren’t being heard, or God isn’t doing it our way. Fourth, we see a loved one suffer and can’t do a damned thing about it. (I find it interesting that I can deal with my own illnesses much better than dealing with the illnesses of those I love.)

Unfortunately, we only grow and learn through struggles, challenges and pain. I was speaking to a dear friend of mine the other day, and she said something to me that was eloquent and insightful, so I would like to share it: “This is what life is about – learning lessons. You have some big bumps in the road right now. You can either let it break you or let it change your thought process... It might feel slow, or walls are up around you, but you are changing. Just keep that perspective.”

I want to end this blog with my friend’s words.


Penelope, My Baby Girl - 9/24/09-9/10/20

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