Mental Health Awareness Week is October 4-10, 2015. Each day of Mental Health Awareness Week, I will post a “STUCK” blog telling an anonymous story demonstrating a challenge faced by someone else. This person could be someone you love, it could be you or it could be me.
Everyday someone somewhere is struggling and feeling stuck.
If my blogs resonate with you, I’d love to hear your comments. Please share my stories and discuss. No one needs to suffer alone or in silence.
Tim’s dog died. The poor old guy was old; almost 15 years old and he had a great life. But Tim was devastated. He loved that dog with all his heart. He knew intellectually that this day would come but emotionally he was not prepared. He wasn’t prepared for how gravely this would affect him. Tim was stuck in his pain.
You might think that it’s sad that Tim’s dog died but you might also think Tim could go and get another dog. He could shop around for different kinds of dogs, or maybe search for the same type of dog. He could rescue an animal in need or he could search out breeders for the perfect dog. He had lots of options.
But that is not how Tim felt. He loved that dog. He had had the dog for 15 years which seemed like the roughest 15 years of Tim’s life. Tim got the puppy from a friend whose dog accidentally had a litter. Tim never planned on having a dog. He rationalized that he was helping a friend by taking one of the puppies but to be honest, once he saw the little of pups, he fell in love. He could resist taking one home. He further rationalized that his wife would love the dog and his 9 year old son could learn the responsibilities of looking after the dog. He was right. His wife fell in love with the puppy immediately Tim’s son gave the puppy some of his toys to chew on and walked him faithfully twice a day. Paul made a nice cozy spot at the foot of his own bed where the dog slept every night for 10 years. The dog slept with Tim’s son every night. Even after Paul had gone off to university, the dog still slept on his bed.
But the bed wasn’t there anymore. Neither was Paul. And neither was Tim’s wife.
Paul was killed in his second year of university. It was a tragic car accident involving 2 cars. Paul was the passenger with some friends and was killed instantly. Tim’s wife never recovered from the death of her only son. She became withdrawn, suffered from depression and left the marriage, claiming she couldn’t look at Tim any more without being reminded of their son and the tragically short life that was snuffed out too soon.
All of a sudden, Tim was alone. He had lost his son and now lost his wife. He was truly alone, except ofr the company of the dog. The dog was all he had left. The dog became Tim’s whole world. He took him wherever he went, walked him several times a day and cooked fresh food for dog. “No wonder that dog lived so long” Tim joked through his tears. Now, the dog was gone too and Tim was suffocating in loneliness. He had no reason to cook and no reason to walk or do anything. There was nobody on the face of the earth that needed him. He might as well die too. Tim was stuck in his grief.
Tim realized that he had not really dealt with the death of his son or his divorce. He had not allowed himself to grieve. He didn’t know how to grieve. He had never expressed his sadness or grief to anyone. Then the dog died. For the first time, Tim realized how much pain he had been holding on to all this time. He realized he was angry, really angry. He felt ripped off. Life had screwed him and life was a bitch! He couldn’t imagine life getting any worse than it was at that moment. Tim was stuck.
With encouragement, Tim learned how to accept the cruel reality he had been dealt. Tim also started to understand that there was absolutely nothing he could have done to prevent his son’s death. He had no control over that terrible situation and he was not responsible for what happened. But Tim also realized he did have involvement over his wife leaving. He had become so withdrawn after their son died that Tim ignored his wife and did nothing to support the grief she was also going through. At first, he was uncomfortable expressing himself but once he began, he realized how much pain he had been holding on. As he started talking about his wife, his son and his dog, he began to replace his pain with fond memories. “I spoiled that dog so much, he wouldn’t eat unless I made fresh gravy every night. Can you imagine?” Tim laughed at himself. “That dog was my whole life. I had no one else to love” Over time, Tim began to find joy in his life again; not a lot but a little joy once and a while. Slowly Tim is re-defining his life’s purpose and realized that the unconditional love he gets from dogs is an important part of his life and an important part of his healing. Tim is not ready to own another dog just yet but he volunteers at his local shelter once a week just to enjoy the puppies and be around dogs.
Tim is seeing a counsellor and eventually his wife, also, joined him in counselling. They have not patched their marriage but they have forgiven each other and become supportive to one another in keeping their son’s memory going.
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