When my beloved eight year old Bichon Frise pup Grendel died unexpectedly, my heart was broken. I cried almost all day, every day, for over a week, feeling as if the pain would never end. I woke up in the middle of the night with my pillow wet with tears. I prayed the whole thing was a nightmare. I wished I could turn back time, if only for a few minutes, so I could hold Grendel just a few more moments, treasure her just a little while longer. When you’re rolling in grief, you wonder if you’ll ever come out the other side. The pain is visceral. The void is palpable. It hurts so much you pray you’ll never have to feel it again. In fact, you feel like you’d do almost anything to avoid such abject misery.
But as I told Siena when she was mourning her friend Vivien, who had to return to Chicago after an extended visit, and as I warned her when she took in two baby rat-coons who died soon after, when we fall in love – whether it’s with pets, parents, lovers, or dear friends – we must give those we love permission to break our hearts. Otherwise, we can’t really fully experience the gifts of love and life.