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Can Losing a Pet Hurt More Than Losing a Spouse?

Unconditional love is a powerful connecter of humans and their animals.

Last week, my best friend was hit by a car and killed. Bijoux was eight human years old (56 dog years). She was a 25 pound corgi/sheltie mix with the most amazing personality - the perfect mix of playful and calm, cute and smart. We shared a profound connection. I loved her more than anything on this earth. That's quite a statement, but it's true.

In these past two weeks, I have been amazed by the number of people who absolutely get the relationship that those of us who are animal lovers have with our pets. I've also been amazed by how many people really don't get it. One person said to me, "keep it in perspective, Susan, it's just a dog."

You may be wondering why I am writing about this and how this is pertinent to what I normally write about - marriage & divorce.

What has been astounding to me is how many people have told me that they had a harder time when their dog died that when they split up with their spouse. One woman told me she thought something was seriously wrong with her because she wept uncontrollably when she had to sell her horse and shed nary a tear when her husband moved out.

How is it that we can have a much stronger connection with an animal? A being with whom we can't converse or share our worries with?

The answer is simple and obvious: because we receive unconditional love from our dogs, cats, birds and bunnies, we feel unconditional love for them. When we allow something to love us and dedicate their lives to us, it brings out the faithful and open-hearted parts of us. We bond around our mutual love - even when nothing can be spoken (perhaps because nothing can be spoken!)

It is because of Bijoux that I met my husband. It is because of Bijoux that my heart was open every day; that I sang to her every day; that I got to smile at all her cute quirky traits. Bijoux brought tremendous light and love into our lives. Her absence leaves a profound hole.

Losing someone or something that you love hurts terribly but what I do know is that, while I won't ever forget Bijoux, the pain will lessen and life will find a sense of normalcy again.

I have had to practice what I preach to all the divorcing clients I work with - to be with the grief. To feel the feelings, as uncomfortable as they may be until they pass. To manage the emotions, rather than try to control them (and make them go away).

It's not easy to do that when the emotions are rooted in intense pain. Friday was particularly bad. Today is better. I don't know what tomorrow will bring but I am committed to grieving for as long as I need to. I'm committed to being around people who understand my pain and who will support me where I am (and who don't try to make me stop feeling what I need to feel).

I often tell people that grief has a life of its own. It's done when it's done - not when I want it to be done.

I'm still a believer in the saying, "it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," but it definitely hurts when the loss comes.

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