The grief hits me in both expected and unexpected ways.

On the first day, it was the hour he died, then the first visit to my parents without him. We have dinner with my parents every Saturday, and Rubin would always race through the door before us, to find the treats my mum would have placed in the kitchen and living room for him to find. (When he stopped doing that, a few weeks ago, we knew things weren’t looking good…) My parents loved Rubin as much as we did: he had his own bed there, and a set of toys, which would be ready and waiting for him every Saturday. Even the empty spot in front of the fire felt like a punch to the gut that day. Then came Monday – the start of the first new week without him. The first time we saw Terry’s mum. The first snowfall that he wasn’t there to jump around in. So many “firsts”.

And now here we are, on the first Friday since he left us: one full week without him.

Every day has been hard. On that first morning, I woke up and lay in bed for a while, constantly thinking, “I really should get up to let the dog out…” and then remembering all over again that, no, actually I didn’t any more. Walking downstairs was the saddest thing in the world: the empty room he used to sleep in, the morning ritual of letting him out, feeding him treats, watching him wag his tail in excitement, because it had been a full eight hours since he’d seen us last… and now knowing that the room will be empty, and that little fluffy tail will never wag again.

Everything hurts.

Then there are the unexpected things: the ones that really don’t make sense, or have any connection to him. That new skirt I ordered when he was still with us, and which I felt almost guilty for admiring when it arrived, because how could I even think about a new skirt, when my beloved dog is dead? The search for the kitchen floor that he will never pad around on.  Hell, even my clothes remind me of him, which puzzled me at first, until I realised that it wasn’t the specific items of clothing that were triggering the memories, but the fact that Rubin’s death feels so much like the end of an era to me: to us both, really. He has been there through almost everything, and as I tidied up my dressing room on Monday morning, so I could take some photos of it, I realised that those clothes are all seeped in memory, too, and they all interlink with my memories of Rubin, of Terry and I, and of all of the things we’ve ever done. They’re all part of that era that ended last Friday, and now every. single. thing. hurts.

ow do you deal with the end of an era: and not just any era, but such an important, formative one, into the bargain? I remember feeling like this in the run-up to my birthday last year: it also felt like an end, rather than a beginning, and I think a lot of the anxiety I felt about it (Because, yes, I get incredibly anxious about my birthdays: they always feel like some strange kind of line in the sand to me, and I’ve never wanted to step over it…) was due to the fact that I also knew we were coming to the end of our lives with Rubin. It felt like everything was about to change: that the best days of my life were about to be behind me, and now that it’s happened, I’m left with the feeling that, not just a chapter, but an entire book has closed. 

How did 14 years slip by so fast? In dog years, I know Rubin had a very long life, but to me it felt like no time at all, and I’m haunted by the knowledge that I took so much of that time for granted, and that, if I blink again, another 14 years could pass, at the same lightning speed.

At one point last week, Terry told me that, although it doesn’t seem like it right now, one day we’ll start to feel better – to only remember the happy things, and to move on. I know that’s true – that it HAS to be true – but the fact is, I don’t want Rubin to be something we “move on” from, like a bad relationship, or a conversation you’d rather forget. I don’t want him to just be part of our past – to exist only in photographs and memories – but with every day that passes, the part of our lives that he belonged to moves further away from us, and one day it will be something that happened a long time ago. Which seems all kinds of wrong to me right now.

have a feeling that I probably shouldn’t be writing about this on the internet: that people are probably going to tell me to, “Just be positive!” because that seems to be this generation’s answer to everything now: that if you can just be positive, and pretend everything is A-OK, then it really will be. But right now I don’t feel remotely positive, and I’m not going to pretend I do, just because people these days expect positivity no matter what. Needless to say, I haven’t written a single word in my, “Positivity,” journal since a couple of days before he died, and if I’m honest, it had been a struggle for a long time before that, too, hence this week’s replacement of ‘Three Things Friday,’ with, ‘One Very Depressing Thing, All The Time.’

I know that some would argue (probably correctly) that now, more than ever, is a time to be focusing on the positives, however small, but while I don’t disagree with that, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Writing those posts has felt, for a long time now, like an attempt to whitewash the reality of my life – to essentially lie by omission, as a way of trying to trick myself into thinking everything was fine, when it really wasn’t. Crucially, it didn’t actually help me, either – like, not even in the slightest – so either my brain is broken (likely), or I need to find some other way to pick myself back up when things go wrong.

While I work that out, I’m going to drop the ‘Three Things’ posts – for now, at least – and just go back to writing regular diary entries, which give me the freedom to talk about both the good AND the bad, both of which are part of life. Don’t get me wrong: although I’m still deeply upset about Rubin, I’m basically OK.  I will be OK. And I do realise – obviously I do, but I now feel the need to caveat this post, so that people don’t worry about me – that things could be a whole lot worse: I have a very good life, all things considered, and while this last 6 – 7 months has been a struggle in a ton of different ways, I know that things will get better, slowly but surely.

Just… not quite yet.

36 Comments
  1. I haven’t yet commented on any of your posts about Rubin as I simply haven’t the words and everytime I read them I start tearing up again. We have a rescue cat and when she passes I know that the grief will be overwhelming. All I will say is don’t rush your emotions – you have no deadlines and no ways you *should* feel at the moment. You are in the grieving process and that will be unique to you. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should or should not be coping or what you should or should not be feeling, and when the tides wash over you, don’t try to fight them. I know it is no comfort at all, but from everything you have shared about Rubin, it is clear that you had one very happy, loved, contented and happy companion who you gave as much joy to as he gave to you. Big hugs, Becky xx

  2. I was so terribly saddened by the news of your loss of Rubin last week, my heart goes out to you and your families who alos loved him so much! I unfortunately have no more eloquent way of saying how terribly sorry I am, and I hope you take all the time you need to grief. When my beloved cat died I saw her running up to me in the corner of my eyes for months after she died, but when I turned, she was obviously not there. Our pets share so many moments with us, that it takes quite a while for life to feel “normal” without them. Sending you much love!

  3. I think it’s okay to not feel positive at the moment, honestly. You know you have a good life and that things will be okay, but allowing yourself to grieve doesn’t negate that. Allow yourself to feel this loss – that’s normal. Love to you xx

  4. It’s ok to be sad, depressed, heartbroken at the death of a loved one, and anyone who says to focus on the positive clearly doesn’t understand that life doesn’t work like that. You are allowed to have negative emotions, thoughts, feelings; you are allowed to embrace them and experience them thouroughly. Putting on a smile and pretending the pain doesn’t exist won’t help anyone, let alone yourself and Terry. Moments like this, it’s ok to *feel*.
    Again, I am so sorry for your loss x

  5. This is grief – if anyone is telling you to be positive, I think most therapists would probably say they’re wrong. You don’t have to be positive, you don’t have to work out how to pick yourself up or find a solution (unless that helps, in which case do it until it doesn’t help, and then stop). I’m so sorry. It sucks.

  6. I feel your pain Amber….. positivity isn’t the answer….. just taking every day at a time is! Simple things will trigger grief – even for years to come. And, it’s okay to cry! Lots! Just you and Terry cuddle and give each other support (along with your Mum and Dad, who I know will be devasted too). Sending much love and good vibes to you all. Helen xxx

  7. Screw the positivity. You have to let yourself be sad and miserable at times. Life isn’t all fun, shit things happen and you have to be able to feel the crappy emotions without feeling guilty that you should be looking on the brightside of every thing. Have a good cry every day, or hour. You know you’ll feel better at some point but that doesn’t have to be now. x

  8. I am so sorry to hear how much you have to deal with this year. You are so strong, and helping others by being an example.
    I don’t think there’s a magical answer. Most people deal with it by taking it one day at a time, what else can you do? Lots of love xxx

  9. You have every right in the world to be upset right now. Things will be OK but right now they are not. Allowing yourself to feel that feeling is the only thing to do. As a wise doctor once told me, if you gave a good reason to be sad then sadness is the healthy, not the pathological response. And the passing of a beloved dog is a very good reason.

  10. Don’t feel you have to be positive and as Sharon says above, sod all that! You can have a great life but still feel incredibly sad when such things happen, and we should be allowed to acknowledge that.

    What you wrote about moving on and one day losing Rubin being something that happened a long time ago strikes a chord – it’s how I feel about my granddad who helped bring me up. Even though it was more than half my life ago that I lost him (so in theory I used be “used to it”), it still hurts that every day gets further and further away in time from when he was a huge and important part of my life.

    xx

  11. It takes a while.

    When we lost Sheba, I could feel her brush past me on the stairs, or walk across the bed at dawn for weeks after. She was old, she was very ill, but as the cat who ruled the street, her loss was felt by more than just us, so grieving was understood.

    Eventually, someone will find you. We now have Pumpkin, who came to us in rather odd circumstances at just the right time (mice had raided our larder, I mentioned it to my hairdresser, and she knew of a cat that needed adopting).

  12. I have been so busy I have been unable to read my favorite blogs, so this is the first I saw about Reuben! I’m so sorry for your loss and I agree with the first poster, don’t rush your feelings. Hugs from Knoxville, TN.

  13. Darling girl. You take as long as you need to grieve. Rubin leaving you is heartbreaking enough, but as you said in this post and the last one he’s been a part of your life, and your life with Terry, for so long that you’re having to adjust to a whole new way of living as well as the loss of someone you loved so much.

    I’m struggling to know what else to say here, but I’m conscious of the fact that with holidays and stuff I haven’t had the chance to say anything yet and I want you to know that I empathise.

    xx

  14. Hi Amber, I’m a fairly new reader and I’ve never commented on any of your posts, but I felt like I had to on this one.
    I’ve never had a pet and this is one of the reasons why I fear it a bit, knowing that one day it will end and that it’s going to hurt like hell.
    I don’t really have any advice for you, except that I think you’re doing right by allowing yourself some time to be down and not forcing yourself in thinking about the positive things, otherwise one day you’ll realize that you never really mourned him and that’s important.
    I just wanted you to know that you described perfectly how it feels when you lose someone close, how the “one day it will be okay” hurts more that it helps in that moment, because the only way it should ever be okay is if you could turn back in time and get back what you lost.
    I know a lot of people are going to be sending you messages of support right now and that you’ll (hopefully) know that you’re not alone, but I just wanted to join those messages, because I too feel just like you.
    Love,
    Raquel

  15. Positivity would be very false and unnatural right now. You are doing the right thing for you – acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to feel as you do is the healthiest option. Take every day as it comes – there will be moments that take you right back and fill you with grief, but others will fill you with joyous memories. I undrtsnd your sadness at the thought that every day that passes takes you further away from your life with Rubin, but your memories, posts and photographs will always testify to his life 💗

  16. I’m so sorry to hear about poor wee Rubin, and I know how much you must miss him. As a pet owner myself I know what it’s like to lose a beloved pet and how the strangest things can remind you of them and make you cry all over again

  17. Oh Amber! This must be so hard, I simply cannot imagine. I have had beloved pets die in the past, but none I’ve had for 14 years and grown with since they were a baby. Even my first very own dog, Billy, who is currently 12 and still way too full of beans sometimes, I only got 7 years ago when I rescued him from an Italian dog pound. But still, when he goes…well, I will feel very much like you do now I imagine.
    And it is of course very well meaning for people to say focus on the positives, but the fact is, grief is a process, and you need to give yourself time for it to one day begin to heal. You can’t artificially force yourself to look on the bright side and push your feelings away if you are not ready, and it’s not a good idea to do that either. Just take your own time about it.
    In the meantime, please do not worry about your readers being disappointed by the lack of positive posts, or your schedule changing – we don’t care!! (Well, I imagine most of us don’t anyway – there’s always an awkward one!) I read your blog for your honesty and for you – if you stop being honest and draw a veil over your feelings, the real ‘you’ that shines through most of your posts will be shrouded and that’s what might make me stop reading – not a lack of regular posts of a specific type! Keep on being perfectly you, and if at the moment, you’re grieving, then we will grieve with you. Huge hugs xxx

  18. I think you are so right not to pretend to be happy right now. Sometimes we need to just sit in the pain and experience it. My heart goes out to you as you remember and mourn Rubin.

  19. Oh man, I am so, so sorry. I wanted to point you to a beautiful essay a friend of mine just wrote for the New York Times about losing her dog and the grief surrounding it: https://tinyurl.com/mvvgrwg

  20. Oh Amber, this is the first I’ve heard. I am so sorry to hear about Rubin. I lost my dog right before the holidays of 2015, and I know, it huts. You are grieving–the only way you should feel is the way you feel at any given moment. Don’t let anyone push a timeline on you. I still miss my fury boy on a daily basis, but it is true–it gets easier, but take comfort in the fact life will go on and you will never forget him. Again, I am so sorry!

  21. I’m so sorry Amber. Every one of these posts has made me cry. You should absolutely be sad and grieve for as long as you need to. As people have said, it will get easier. I just want to remind you when that starts to happen that you aren’t moving on from Rubin, you are moving on from the hurt of losing him.
    Thank you for reminding me to hug my dog extra close today.

  22. You’ve really been through the wringer this last few months. So sorry to hear about Rubin. Know how it feels as we lost two cats – one to cancer when he was only 9 and the other at 17. The first one in particular took us both a long time to deal with (not “get over” because you don’t really). But Terry’s right – there will come a time when you’ll remember and laugh about the things Rubin used to get up to, although you probably can’t imagine that now. We do now but it was very hard at first. We were glad to have each other as a shoulder to cry on and I’m sure you 2 are too. One thing that drove me mad was people saying “well, why not just get another one?” like we’d just broken a cup or something. So insensitive.

  23. Amber,
    When I read your post “The Hardest Day” I knew what it was about even before I read a single sentence. I didn’t write you a note or anything because so many people had already written. But I cried today reading this post and I must tell you that I know this pain. It feels just like a death in the family, because that’s exactly what it is. I am so very sorry.

  24. Amber, I have only recently found your blog via Pinterest. I haven’t followed your story, and I won’t pretend to know your situation and depth of feeling that your regular readers will feel with you. I will say however that I am deeply sorry for your loss. A pet is never just a pet. They carve out their own special place in our hearts and touch our souls in so many ways. I have always thought of my dogs as my children and have mourned them as such when I have lost them. That being said, no one knows the depth of your pain, even those who have lost a loved one, because it is your pain, unique to you. So you do what you need to do to heal, and remember even after the pain subsides there is a scar left as testimont to the story. My deepest sympathies to you and yours.

  25. Dear Amber,
    Thank you for sharing this.
    I lost my dog exactly two months ago. He was with me for 15 years and losing him has been like losing a part of me. Scooby was my life and I can understand and relate to everything you wrote here. Losing a pet is really the end of an era. I got Scooby when I was 13, and I honestly can’t remember how my life was without him. Before reading this, I thought that nobody could quite understand what I was going through. I’ve never been good at expressing my feelings out loud and haven’t had the chance to talk about this with anybody, mainly because every time someone mentions his name I feel I will start to cry. Scooby, as Rubin, was a very loved dog. He was sweet and spoiled and my family loved him very much. But as his momma, I am the most affected by his death, and as you said, EVERYTHING reminds me of him.
    I am so sorry for your loss, yours and Terry’s as well. Although I didn’t have the pleasure to meet him, Rubin looked like such a happy dog. I still remember all the posts you wrote in his name and how much they made me laugh. They are my favourite ones. Take all the time you need to process this and I hope that with time, it’ll hurt a bit less.

  26. I’ve lost two dogs in my 22 years and recently our collie has started showing signs of his ages too. It is truly heartbreaking but if it is some comfort you never really ‘move on’ from them. We still talk about both of them almost daily and I have 100s of stories that come to mind which I’ll probably keep telling all my life. Even if we keep having dogs in the house (which we will) you never forget about them they just become happy memories instead of sad <3

    G is for Gingers xx

  27. This may or may not be helpful Amber and if it’s not I’m sorry. I’m not an animal person at all but I lost my mum 5 years ago. We were super close and all I could think as she was ill and then died was ‘life will never be the same again’. And it’s true- life never has been the same again. I miss her and think of her every day. But the grief is different nowadays. I wouldn’t say it’s easier but I feel more like ‘she’d have liked this’ rather than ‘I wish she was here, whyyyyyy isn’t she heeere?’ I’d never say ‘just be positive’ but I do believe you’ll find a way of processing your emotions differently x

  28. Dear Amber,
    Your sweet little Rubin was lucky to have you and your family. A love like that lives forever. It is miraculous how pets and other loved ones help us get through difficult times and enrich our lives by feeding our hearts.
    Metoo

  29. So glad to see so many supportive comments.
    I’ve teared up too. A haiku I wrote years ago talked about healing tears. We are all broken-hearted in some ways.
    Maybe knowing that you aren’t alone through this experience will help. Lost love connects us. Being able to share connects us too.

  30. This is why I did not want to buy another dog when I lost the one I had, to feel the sorrow of losing a dog gain , not for me, never again i promise to myself

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