I have been doing a lot of contemplating of life, recently. This is hardly a surprise for a creative writer and poet; it is, after all, our “stock in trade”.

But sometimes one’s life events conspire to make one even more reflective than usual, and lead to discoveries that one was not deliberately intending to try and make.

Grief, it appears to me, is one of the more unpredictable, distressing and difficult things any of us have to go through.

And like most lives, mine has had its share.

Before my life really got going at all my father died of a massive coronary when I was just two years old.

Psychological prognosticating that I have engaged in as I settle into my middle years suggests that this event may have had more impact on me than I had previously suspected.

L-R Betty Yolland, Derek Yolland, me, Stewart Yolland

L-R Betty Yolland, Derek Yolland, me at a week or so old, Stewart Yolland

Not only was I alone in the home with Dad for a couple of hours after he suddenly collapsed and died rather inelegantly on the toilet – apparently when people came home I was very distressed and kept repeating “Big man won’t get up …” until I was bundled next door, (an event which I think I recall clearly), but I now suspect the subsequent experience of grieving in the household, indeed, in many of the events surrounding my growing up – the plethora of aunts, uncles and friends conferring sadly with my mother on the memory of Dad and the unfairness of his being taken from us at just 46 – had a considerable effect on how I have subsequently processed emotional matters.

My mother, you see, was a “coper”. Indeed, like many of her generation, she “coped” heroically, and made a virtue of it. She didn’t deal easily with the sympathies of others, and habitually turned them away with a self-deprecating comment.

Of solid Lincolnshire stock, and raised in lower-middle-class respectability in Swansea in South Wales, born in the middle of the Great War and growing up with all the national angst and sadness that implied, she was famously independent, ferociously strong willed – she left school at 15 without telling her parents for six months, which says something about both her and her parents – and demonstrated a stoic acceptance of whatever life threw at her, including Dad’s unexpected demise.

She coped heroically with the Great Depression, with living with a young child, (my eldest brother, Derek, 17 years older than I), under the horrific Nazi bombing of World War II, with Dad being away on destroyers for all six years of the war, with the death of a child, (my “middle brother”, Roger), with the ups and downs of life as a small retailer, and then with the trials and tribulations of impoverished widowhood with another young child to look after.

She was from the generation for whom “stiff upper lip” was more than a badge of honour, it was the only expressive option on offer. This meant, of course, that whilst she was a kind and thoroughly hard-working mother, she wasn’t the most emotionally “giving” person. She didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve so much as tucked away in a hidden pocket inside her voluminous layers of undergarments. I am sure many British kids from the era, whatever their social class, can picture themselves in the description I have just offered.

In primary school, I very clearly remember feeling somewhat lost and other-worldly amongst my contemporaries.

Only one other boy in our coterie had lost a father, and he was so fearfully clever as to eclipse even my better-than-reasonable academic performance and I really didn’t like him much, (especially as he was always shoved in my face as a paradigm to aim for), so I felt something of an oddity, as if the other kids somehow steered a little clear of me for fear of catching the disease of dead Dadness.

All the while my mother was busily coping, and my brother had moved overseas, and I recall plainly wondering why it had fallen to my lot to be moderately poor (in a relatively well off area), without the love and guidance of a Dad who everyone assured me was a great bloke, (which just made it worse), with a charismatic and good looking elder brother who lived seven thousand miles away and who I only saw for a couple of weeks every two years or so, and to cap it all not having all that many good mates either.

(I had some, though, and they know who they were and are, and I am forever grateful.)

I was happy enough, till Dad died. That was the start of a long haul.

In retrospect, then, I had grief as an undercurrent in my life for much of my growing up. And I managed it by doing the only thing I knew how. I intellectualised it away.

I was precociously clever, imaginative to a fault, (I could play alone contentedly on my bed with toy soldiers and whatnot for hours, indeed, I remember the elaborate fantasies I constructed in my head as some of my happiest days of childhood), and so I neatly compartmentalised my brain to deal with my life.

The things I grieved over – the absence of Dad, the distance of my adored brother, the un-reachability of the extended family I enjoyed so much spending time with in Wales, even my mother’s odd remoteness – as I write these words I wince at that word, because it seems so unfair for one who attended to her responsibilities with such care, but emotionally remote she undoubtedly was – these things I plonked into cardboard boxes in my head and stuck them down with sticky tape and did my level best to develop into a “coper” myself.

I repeated this process when I was unexpectedly dispatched to an English boarding school at 11, courtesy of having waltzed my way through a scholarship examination, (without any understanding of why I was sitting it – if I had known, I would have failed deliberately), and promptly found myself ensnared in the most emotionally abusive environment yet dreamed up by social engineers to torture sensitive, intellectually-gifted children.

I was bullied. Unmercifully.

Psychologically, physically – by both teachers and students – for my plummy southern accent, for my enthusiastic willingness to answer questions in class, (usually with the right answer, naturally), for the fact that I was not the biggest kid around (I filled out later, some would say as a deliberate subconscious response to avoid getting kicked in the shins by life any longer), for … well, for whatever reason they chose to dream up on the day, really.

First XV

I am prouder of this picture than most – I finally made the First XV – but looking back, at what cost? Anyway, here’s the proof. And I had nice legs, too.

Looking back, the fact that I did not raid the Combined Cadet Force lockers for a Bren gun and take fifty or so of my torturers out is entirely to my credit and to my development as a coper.

Indeed, ask my contemporaries at that school today and they will confirm that whilst they knew I was bullied, they were also impressed by my leading performances in school plays, as a capable top tenor in the school choir, as a moderately good rugby player (I made the First XV once, and played every other game of the final season of my schooling in an “unbeaten” Second XV – I should and could have played all season in the First XV but key individuals didn’t like me) and generally that I seemed like a capable and well-balanced fellow, for the most part, despite the bullying, who was making a pretty good fist of sharing their allotted time in middle-class prison.

And they were right, in a way. I was damned if I was going to let the system beat me, and ultimately it didn’t. I ended up with a passable liberal education and left on the very first day I could, a couple of weeks before the end of the last term (on some pretext or other) and breathed a very cold “And fuck you all.” as the taxi left the school grounds to take me to the quaint nearby station and home.

The pattern was set. I duly coped when a youthful first marriage went disastrously south prematurely (prematurely, that is, in my opinion, at the time; in later years the wisdom of hindsight has convinced me it was the right decision for both of us). I poured my grief out in poem after poem many of which form the first part of my book. I thought the process was cathartic – it wasn’t. I was crafting on the page a simalcrum, a mirror, an expression of the grief I was feeling, but as if that grief was happening to a third party, not me. The poems are good, and even when edited some 20 years later for publication they stood the test of time as worthy explorations of the psyche of lost love, but as a way of genuinely dealing with my grief they were merely sophisticated boxes and tape.

In time I coped with other broken love affairs (like everyone does, to be sure).

I coped with moving to the other side of the world and feeling most insecure to have done so.

I coped with working in an abusive environment that I had to ensure I stayed in because I needed the money, I coped with … well, whatever life threw at me really.

I coped when my brother died suddenly at 52, just when I thought we might get to spend some quality time together one day soon.

I don’t claim any special credit for this coping, nor am I looking for praise; I simply didn’t have any alternative, because that was how I had been brought up, do you see, and in any event, it’s not as if coping is such a bad thing. Any grief I felt at life’s shitty little surprises I neatly packed up and put away, decided on a course of action, and followed it with determination and even occasional élan.

So this was all very well, I guess, and something and nothing and a testament to the upside of coping, except that in later years the pressure of shoving all my distress and grief away into cardboard boxes in my head became too much.

When something really unconscionably close and awful happened – our first daughter got tangled up coming out, and was taken off life support five days later – it turned out the cupboard was full, there was no more room for any more cardboard boxes of neatly disposed emotions, the grief at an event so unexpected, so cruelly unfair, so immeasurably awful and unpredictable, meant I fell entirely, massively, and utterly into a heap.

Yet even then the effect of this terrible and almost unendurable life-moment was delayed by my innate copingness.

I didn’t know how to grieve. So when Rhiannwen Cari Yolland died, my first priority was her Mum.

I knew what I had to do: cope.

And so I did, I coped for 18 months. I strove to live up to, despite the pressure I was under, my image of being a “good man”. I held down a job with some success, I tried to be supportive to my wife, I didn’t allow myself to become overwhelmed when she was, I tried instead to be cheerful, I … coped. In retrospect, with the benefit of 24 years of reflection, my flaws as a husband during this period are all too obvious and cringeworthy, but I assure you, Dear Reader, I did my best; my best as I knew how. I kept going. And even now, inside you, admit that some of you are nodding approvingly at my traditional, male-role-oriented determination to “carry on”.

Leaving the hospital with Caitlin. I was already near to a complete sanity breakdown, and indeed, my smile looks a bit wan. Nevertheless a wonderful gift: this is known, reflecting our earlier troubles, as the “You got a take home one, Daddy!” moment by my daughter.

Except that then, when our second daughter, Caitlin, was born, I promptly lost it. Altogether. The doors of the cupboard broke open, and within twenty four hours, I was pretty much a basket case.

Unable to grieve effectively, to grieve for so many reasons of which the baby’s death was just the most recent and most dreadful, and with grief accumulated inside my head for so long, I overnight developed a crippling case of Obsessional Compulsive Disorder which made life almost impossible to live, (not to mention its effect on the lives of those around me), and I struggled with it for fully ten years or more before a recovery slowly began and persisted.

My mind simply revolted from the pressures to which it had been subjected for all my life, having been refused the outlet of grieving.

OCD is the most pernicious and awful “mental” illness. It seems tailor-made to torture the “coper” with exquisitely precise horrors. Starved of the chemical transmitters that one needs to function rationally (which are “used up” prematurely by years of unresolved tensions and continual low level stress, and, ironically, used up most quickly, it seems, in individuals of high intelligence) the brain instead erects “rituals” designed to put the world back into order.

If only I tap my foot a certain number of times, all will be well with my day. If I count a certain number of telegraph poles correctly while driving to work, and click my teeth between each of them, it’ll be a good day. If I wash my hands, repeatedly, slather them in disinfectant or antiseptic cream, if I avoid touching anything, then I will never become sick or die, even if my hands become red, cracked, suppurating mockeries of hands. If I never say a word beginning with B, if I never use the number 6, if I always count to fourteen before speaking, if I don’t tread on the lines between paving stones, if I turn to the left and never to the right … the rituals and “rules” are as many and as bizarre as the endlessly creative human mind can construct. And all the while, with all the effort involved, they are completely, utterly, ironically incapable of controlling the world around you, of deflecting the real and natural experience of grief, or of protecting you from the future randomness of life.

That’s why OCD holds a special place in the list of “things not to get”. Not only does it turn you into a non-functioning recluse (at best), but it doesn’t even work. It doesn’t help you cope. The rituals solve nothing. Bastard. Bastard bastard bastard fucking illness. I hate it. Indeed, my hatred of OCD is so intense, it prevents it recurring in my life. My emotions over OCD are untrammeled, un-contained, unreduced. It is a bastard trick our own brains play on us, and my hatred of it is healthy and realistic.

You don’t “cope” with OCD – you can’t. You beat it, or it beats you. You smash it into little pieces, no matter how wild or scared or angry you have to become to do so. And every day, thereafter, for the rest of your life, you allow your mind to revel in its disgust at this vile illness, as you encourage everyone around you to fight it too (it affects about 4% of people and is no respecter of sex, age, social station, or any other divider) by facing up to whatever it is that triggered the brain’s response in the first place.

And that’s why, on this pleasantly warm summer’s day in my comfortably mostly-paid for home in the world’s most liveable city, looking forward to enjoying a meal this evening with my endlessly patient and loving wife and talented and adorable daughter, I am allowing myself to grieve.

Indeed, more than that, I am co-opting you to share the experience, I am reaching out to you to share it, because it is painful, and it hurts, and I don’t want to go through it alone and silent.

As regular readers will know, my dog was put to sleep eleven days ago, and I am not over it. And my rational mind is telling me that it’s silly to grieve over a dog all that much, let alone for nearly two weeks, you imbecile, and my new, pristine, “don’t always try and cope” mind is telling my rational mind to go boil its head.

I work at home. If I didn’t have meetings out, Zach was frequently the only living creature I would talk to in the day.

He would invariably come and lie at my feet, and usually on my feet, or he would lie as close to my office chair as he could, behind it, which meant I would often absent-mindedly “run over him” when pushing the chair back or stretching. This would invariably result in a plaintive yelp but no lasting damage, and an affectionate admonition from me along the lines of “Well, then don’t lie there, then, you stupid animal” as I massaged his toe, tail, or whatever. He never paid any attention to my warnings.

This morning, as I rolled the chair back, he wasn’t there. It hurt. I got hurt. And there’s no one here but you, Dear Reader, to rub my heart and make it better, so instead of rushing on and ignoring my hurt and putting it in whatever battered old cardboard box I have left up there, I am writing to you instead.

See: a little while ago, just before starting to write this article, I did the dishes.

By which I mean, specifically, I walked to the dining room a few times, rescued the dendritus from last night’s meal, and brought it back to the kitchen and stacked the dishwasher. Except today the dog didn’t ploddingly follow me from kitchen, to dining room, to kitchen, to dining room, to kitchen, waiting for scraps to fall off the plates and dishes, whether deliberately or accidentally, as his expected supplement to his daily diet. And I didn’t have to mutter “for fuck’s sake, dog, get out of the way before I break my neck” as he wandered purposefully towards me, looking up with mournful but expectant brown eyes. And he didn’t sit by the kitchen fireplace, rigidly sat to attention, following me with those huge brown pools of light grown cloudy in old age, just in case a crust, a bit of bacon rind, or a handful of left over rice was about to get lobbed in his general direction as the dishes went into the dishwasher.

And because I have vacuumed, again, there are ever fewer of his silken, golden-white hairs inhabiting the nooks and crannies of our home, needing me to pull them off the furry head of the vacuum cleaner and feed them up its capacious mouth by hand, because we’re gradually getting them all up. And one day, there won’t be a single dog hair anywhere in the house, none stuck to any of my socks, none hiding under chairs or behind tables, none floating past the window on a gentle zephyr, and then he will be totally, erasedly gone. Forever.

And it hurts. It hurts like hell.

Please understand, I don’t want you to do anything with my grief. Except listen to it.

Zach
This photograph was taken a few minutes before he died. Our local vets were magnificent, as they had been since the first day we had taken him there for puppy training, a lifetime ago. (If any of you need a caring vet, and you live near us, I’ll gladly give you their number.) They gently confirmed that his lungs and spleen were riddled with cancer, and even if we got rid of the tumour on his skin then the ones inside him were killing him with inexorable certainty, and that he was almost certainly – uncomplainingly – in considerable pain and discomfort. That was why he was coughing. That was why his back legs had gone wonky. It was time to say goodbye.

To their eternal credit, they arranged for us to gather round him as he lay on a comfortable pair of towels, in soft sunshine under a lovely tree. The vet patiently explained what would happen as he died, that it would be very fast and painless, and that animals don’t fear death as we do, and we should know that he was really quite happy, and happy to be with us.

I took him to a nearby water bowl, and let him have a drink, which he did, gently, and it seemed to me, thankfully. I don’t know why, I just think I thought being thirsty was an unnecessary indignity. I knew he was going to be dead in two minutes, but “there’s no reason for him to die with a dry mouth, is there?” I reasoned to myself.

My wife placed her hand reverently on his panting chest as he lay there, and my daughter massaged his velvet ears, as she had done ten thousand times before, and murmured to him quietly how much she loved him. We all said a small prayer, unsure of whether God has a place for dogs, but hoping against hope he does. And then the green liquid flowed into the catheter in his leg, and his eyes closed, and my wife said “There.” Because his chest was suddenly still.

And it was very sad, but it was OK. They let us leave by a side gate so we didn’t have to run the gauntlet of the people in the waiting room with our tears flowing. I took one look back. His giant body lay so still in the dappled light, and he looked simply and contentedly asleep in the garden, as I had seen him so many times over thirteen and a half years, and more than that, he looked at peace. As if the burden of plodding from place to place with the pain inside him and keeping the love in his eyes constantly there despite his trials had been lifted from him, and now he could really, genuinely, finally rest. And it was very sad, but it was OK.

And eleven days later, I miss him every time he doesn’t stick his great, silly, donkey-like head enquiringly round a corner. And right now, my days seem longer and emptier and lonelier. And you know what? It’s OK to feel that, and it’s OK, even, to say it.

That’s my discovery. It only took 53 years, since the day the big man wouldn’t get up.

Thank you for listening.

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Comments
  1. davidoliver99 says:

    Stephen… though blurred vision of eyes filled with tears… it was a privilege to listen to you today…

    Like

  2. Miles says:

    Yolly, thank you for sharing this. We all have our share of grief in our lives, we all have moments where we ‘cope’, and we all have our share of mental illness (even if for some it doesn;t progress further than supporting Southampton FC).

    But in the depths of our darkest hour, we forget we are not alone, we build walls around ourselves and within ourselves. It takes courage to stand up and admit our grief, our loss, and our suffering to others. But each person that does will make someone else’s suffering that little more bearable.

    You have provided me with a timely reminder that I really do need to get on and write my blog which remains unwritten.

    Like

  3. Julia Hughes says:

    I’ve experienced the grief of losing a beloved animal from this life. Some went far too early, others stayed as long as they could. The heartbreak is still the same. My grandparents are all dead now, that’s the natural order though isn’t it? Still I remember the dark days when the reality of death first hits, and understand how the premature death of a parent can affect a child, but I cannot begin to imagine a parent’s grief and bewilderment at losing a child. A very honest and moving post.

    Like

  4. Wendy says:

    Sigh. Just sigh. Sixteen days without mum now. Crying and sighing. I’m seriously hoping against hope that God has a special place for companion animals. Maybe my mum is muttering “for fuck’s sale dog”. I kinda hope so.

    Like

    • Please let us all know if there is anything we can do, Wendy. I somehow think – well I hope – Heaven is the place we want it to be. If it is there, which I tend to believe more than I doubt, I suspect it is really rather wonderful, and your Mum has everything she could possibly want. I am sure, too, that those that leave us must look back and whisper “I’m fine, honestly. Please don’t be too sad.” But we are, of course. And it is right that we are. And then one morning we wake up, and it doesn’t feel like just the worst day ever, and on we go …

      Like

      • Wendy says:

        Ah Yolly, thanks but there’s nothing to “do” about grief or even helping with it that you haven’t already done in sharing your own and acknowledging its existence. Love to all at your house and hoping that one day (later) there might be a new and special four legged, hair shedder to share your lives.

        Like

  5. Paul Brixey says:

    Steve, you brought me to tears with this post. I don’t cope very well with grief and loss at all and as I get older I find I reminisce even more. A couple of weeks ago on my birthday I found myself sitting on my own in a Canary sunshine and thinking of my late father. I realised that he was only ten years older than I currently am when he passed away and it certainly made me think very deeply.

    I don’t know why but I just looked up to the whispy clouds and cried.
    Thinking of you dear friend.

    Like

  6. Linda Reynolds says:

    Thank you for sharing your most intimate moments and feelings. My husband had a massive stroke 8 years ago and survived it, but was left with great disability one of which he cannot speak and I ‘cope’ with this every day. I live in constant grief every day for the man and husband that I once had. Up until 6 years ago, I cried almost every day. At least now I am moving forward and can talk about it somewhat without crying. I think we all cope in some sort of way with tragedies throughout our lives, some better than others. Your story has touched my heart thank you for sharing it.

    Like

    • You are very welcome, Linda, and thank you very much for bravely telling your story, too. You might like to search my site for a story on brain plasticity entitled “Don’t like your brain? Change it.” I have received a lot of comment on it, both on the blog and privately, and without minimizing your husband’s situation at all, you might find it encouraging. I have the utmost respect for your, and his, courage. Hang in there 🙂

      Like

  7. Sarah Louise Ricketts says:

    Stephen, have you heard of/read a book called “FatherLoss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads,” by Neil Chethik. I cannot recommend it highly enough. As the mother of 19 year old and 16 year old sons when Geoff died in 2009, it helped me approach being the right sort of mother for them. Boys who lose their fathers in the early years are the most affected, as you have shown in what you have written. There is always a scar, of course, and this varies with age and how that age responds to grief. Blessings, Sarah

    Like

  8. Andrew Metcalfe says:

    Just listening… being human though, it’s impossible for us not to empathise… in this case with too much to mention. I shed a lot of tears over this… and that’s OK too. God bless you and the family, Yolly.

    Like

  9. Through tears I can only say, it was hard to like this but it was loved. Thank you for sharing this story. You are not wrong, your heart is not wrong to still miss him.

    Like

  10. Coo says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Our family has had its fair share of grief and I miss dad and Gannin (stoic as she was …) almost every day. Coo

    Like

    • Coo, how lovely to hear from you! I am glad you enjoyed the article, your kind words mean so much to me, and I know you must miss them both terribly.

      The point of the article, of course, is to remind us all that it is perfectly OK for us all to reach out and tell those around us that we are grieving. Why write such a piece? Simple: we need to remember tell our kids, our friends, our neighbours.

      Yes, Gannin was famously stoic – there were a few more of those in our family on both sides in the same generation – but they were products of their upbringing too. I find myself bereft without her counsel and her kindness, and still have dreams where she is alive and healthy, only to wake up and feel bereaved all over again.

      She loved you very, very much.

      Like

  11. This is a beautiful love letter to Zach and an insightful piece on multiple, layered levels. Thank you for sharing this with your readers. My heart goes out to you, Stephen.

    Like

  12. Steve Brown says:

    Yolly

    There are times when I am truly proud to know you and to be your friend. This is one of them. When you get out of sales mode (you know what I mean!) you have a real depth and substance to you. This is some of the most touching prose I have ever read – up there with Evelyn Waugh’s Handful of Dust , which, like this, comes from an author really going deep inside and laying his soul bare. You and I share the ‘joy’ of losing our fathers at an early age. I remember the useless explanations from well meaning relatives – “God wanted daddy in heaven” well that’ s OK then. I recall, too, the occasional innocent questions asked by young school friends that ripped my heart out : “So, why haven’t you got a dad, then?” – that was a real corker for me, which cut my heart in half and caused me to sob alone away from other kids with whom I was sharing a ‘holiday’ in the Isle of Wight when I was 10 years old. Why did I cry alone? Because “big boys don’t cry”, of course…”be strong”, Steve.

    Like you, I had well-meaning strangers who would say, out of the blue, further statements that would just open that cut in the heart just a little further….. in a visit to a London pub in pub in my teens a man in his 50s said: “You look just like your dad…….did anyone tell you that your dad saved my life during the War? ” And all I could think of was: “yes, but he’s dead, I never knew him, and you’re alive, you ****!”.

    I didn’t even begin to deal with my father’s death until, my mid-30s when an “advanced soul” looked me in the eyes and said “You’ve’ never had a chance to grieve over your father’s death, have you?” This old woman was absolutely right and I had to excuse myself, rush out and sob uncontrollably for 15 minutes.

    So much for my practical maxim of “well, what you’ve never had you never miss” to deal with his death. Absolute bollocks: I never knew him; I wish I had, but I have missed him like mad and ached for his presence on occasions.

    So, I don’t have the gift to write like you really have – I have published 90 papers and 10 books but they don’t touch the soul like your narrative.. What I can say is that your words and grief absolutely resonated with me. You should get this published.

    Well done for being brave enough to share this.

    Steve

    Like

    • Steve, I have replied to you offline so you know how touched I was by your comment.

      I am also very proud to have been graced with a lifetime of friendship from you.

      Many of my wildest, funniest, silliest and most meaningful moments in life have been shared with you, and I remember all of them with great pleasure. Whether it was watching footy or riding around in a shitty old van to a gig or exploring the outer limits of a young man’s social life, you were like a brother-in-situ, and I remember the laughs so well. You were and are the gift that keeps on giving.

      And I am very proud of the career you’ve had. We write differently, but your writing keeps people in work, and helps students learn, and improves stuff all the time. So keep chucking the pebbles in the pond, mate. One never knows where the ripples end.

      Like

  13. kat says:

    Hey Stephen, my name is Kat, I’m 21 from Nova Scotia, Canada, and I suffer from OCD as well; just wanted to tell you your story was touching and it is slowly making its way around the globe. Thank you for sharing. And saying what I could never put in words about Obnoxious Cunt Dissorder 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you so much for getting in touch, Kat. I am sorry you are enduring OCD but I encourage you to keep fighting – I am living proof that it can be beaten. I strongly recommend reading a book called Brain Lock by Jeffrey Schwartz, which is tremendously helpful and practical and encouraging.

      The more you can keep the story I wrote moving around, the better. FB, Twitter etc.

      Thanks again for taking the time to write – it makes writing such a frank article all worthwhile 🙂

      Good luck with your personal journey!

      Like

  14. as an ocd therapist who lost my sweet cat of 16 years just a few months ago, this essay touched me more than you can know. when you wrote about not backing into you dog with your chair on the first day after he was gone, the tears flowed. grieving is so much about encountering all those awful firsts when your trusty animal companion has departed. it has been an horribly painful experience, for me worse than anything else i’ve encountered in my 39 years. the only thing i can do is respect the feelings and let them wash over me in waves. eventually it passes and i carry on, until the next wave. the first week was the worst. but i wouldn’t trade my time with him to make it any less painful.

    best of luck to you with your ocd and the grief and whatever else life serves up. thank you for sharing with us.

    Like

    • You are very welcome, April, and I thank you sincerely for sharing your own story and taking the time to comment.

      I do believe sharing grief is one of the things we have lost in our modern society, and we are poorer and more vulnerable because of it. Please pass the story on to anyone you think might benefit from reading it. I am so glad it “spoke” to you.

      Like

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