When Grief comes to visit

It is the start of another absolutely gorgeous summer in North Idaho and school wrapped up last week. While we are so excited for the best time of year around here, we are also dealing with the unexpected, and never welcome visitor, Grief.

Our 11 year old has wanted a pet bunny since she was tiny, so we adopted an adorable 3 year old lop from our local shelter in October. She took great care of him, took him on walks, and he would sit on her chest and lick her face. It was the cutest.
Last Wednesday, we noticed he didn’t come running for his food at breakfast. He just lay in his cage, and by the evening had still not eaten. Being newer bunny owners I started researching, and we took him to the vet the next day, as bunnies should always be eating.

She was very kind and gentle with my daughter, informing her we would do all we could, but that bunnies can be tricky – and that if he was going to pull through, it would be by the next day. My daughter listened calmly, proceeded to do all the little things to try and get him eating and talking to him ; e passed within 30 minutes of us getting home from our visit. What nobody tells you about your kids losing a pet, is that sometimes you have become far more attached to them than you realized.

Most of my experiences of Grief and loss as an adult, have been this type. The sucker punch in the gut, how-can-this-be-happening, but-we-just-saw-them type. 2 friends lost way too young in motorcycle accidents; a dear friend’s 9 week old son; an old friend in a scuba accident. The kind where I have to lock myself in the bathroom so my kids don’t see me completely falling apart type of grief.
And while Alex the Bunny was “just” a pet, and by no means as traumatic as losing a friend or loved one, sudden and unexpected loss is something there is no way to prepare for. No amount of worrying or planning will make it easier. It touches the old wounds of past losses, and like the great recently shared analogy, it hits that pain button and knocks you on your ass.

I know from all I’ve read, and what I’ve experienced, that the most important thing to do is feel it. My daughter wants to distract herself and get another bunny right away. The reality is grief that we deny does us harm. If we don’t let ourselves experience it ; if we don’t embrace the gut wrenching ugly sobs or bouts of rage, and teach our kids to as well –  we risk losing the ability to handle it in a healthy way as adults. We turn to assorted coping mechanisms, open the door to distractions of the unhealthiest sort, let people into our lives we otherwise wouldn’t.

So we are keeping company with Grief for now. Not wallowing, but finding ways to process. We had a ceremony in our back yard, where everyone said something they loved about Alex. My daughter made a little cross with his name on it to mark his grave, and we planted flowers above him. My friend brought some hearts with flower seeds for us to scatter, and a tea light candle to light in remembrance and goodbye. And we are talking about it ; what we miss, how cute he was, how we feel sad, and how it’s ok to feel those things.
Grief is an inevitable visitor, always unwelcome and fated to arrive at some point. I hope that when he comes to call, you will do the brave, hard work of feeling it so you can heal.
With Love – Sarah

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