“The way I see it, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening. Truth be told, I always felt it a bit lazy to just think of the world as sad, because so much of it is. Because everything ends. Everything dies. But if you step back, if you step back and look at the whole picture, if you’re brave enough to allow yourself the gift of a really wide perspective, if you do that, you’ll see that the end is not sad, Rebecca. It’s just the start of the next incredibly beautiful thing.” – William Hill, This Is Us.
NBC’s This Is Us became an instant favourite when I first saw it and it continued to mean a lot to me over the years it aired. It rightfully received acclaimed, awards, and a big fanbase. The show presents relatable life experiences, while tugging on heartstrings.
The above quote was said by a character in the penultimate episode, in response to death. I knew when I first watched the scene, with tears trickling down my face (not uncommon when I watch This Is Us), that this scene would provide consolation in the future.
7 months later I said goodbye to our family dog and I found myself drawn to this scene again.
Pet grief is new to me. I didn’t have any pets, other than couple of fish when I was about 10 and my parents previous dog and their rabbits up until I was about 5, and while I lost close relatives growing up, which is another type of grief entirely, I hadn’t lost a pet.
It’s a weird type of grief because you feel guilty for many things like: ‘I should have played with him more’ even though I played with him a lot. ‘I should have walked him more’ even though I walked him a lot. ‘I should have cuddled him more’ even though I cuddled him a lot. I think that’s because there never is enough play time, walks, or cuddles.
Then I feel guilty that I shouldn’t be grieving for a pet. Everyone loses loved ones, including beloved family pets, so what makes my grief so important?
I cried a lot in that first week and then more at Christmas, which was tough. Since then, the crying only comes a couple of times a week which I find is a healthy release.
In the first week I joined a Facebook community group for pet loss in order to find some solace with relatable stories. It was comforting at first, but after a month I had to leave because the stories were too sad. It served its purpose for a few weeks, though.
Last week, I dreamt of him. I vividly remember him leaping into my arms from a shelf higher than my head, all because he needed a cuddle from me.
He passed away at 15 and a half years old, which according to Google is above average, and lived, I hope, a happy life with cuddles, food, walks, play-time, and lots of love.
He first entered my life while my Nan was still alive, during her early stages of Alzheimer’s, and helped us through losing her and other family members during my teenage years. As a teen he would sleep on my bed, despite not being allowed, while I watched the DVDs I bought from Tesco for £3 or blogged on Tumblr about my growing love for films. He met my boyfriend, who wasn’t use to dogs, after my first-term at university and took a liking to him straight away. He became a dog of luxury when we all moved out of my hometown to a quieter village, seeing more wildlife on his walks which I think he enjoyed. After moving out he’d be the first soul to greet me when I visited my parents and he came to mine for sleepovers.
It’s these moments I try to think of when I’m missing him. As William says, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening. And it was so wonderful. Grief only happens after having loved and I’m lucky to have been able to love him.