Our family has had to say goodbye to a little animal friend this week. The loss was unexpected and far too soon. It got me thinking about how we often minimise something like the loss of a pet as 'only'..."It was only a cat, only a rabbit, how can you be this upset?" Sometimes we think this about ourselves too "Why can't I get over this, why am I still so sad about it".
We react this way because we have some idea about what is and isn't an acceptable thing to grieve over, we can feel ashamed that our emotions are not behaving as we think they 'should.' We may even fear ridicule or an unsympathetic response if we talk about it. How isolating. Loss of all kinds can bring up some unexpected and confusing feelings such as guilt, anger, blame, regret, often related to past losses, disappointments and traumatic events. Adding shame for having these emotions into the mix just makes it all harder to deal with.
Don't let anyone tell you that feelings are 'wrong' or that you 'should' or 'shouldn't' be reacting in a certain way to any event you are experiencing. Your feelings are yours and are valid, whatever they may be. Just because they are not what someone else is experiencing doesn't alter that. What seems like an 'only' loss to someone else can be a really profound loss to you. We are not in the business of making value judgements on experiences of pain, sadness, grief. If it hurts to you, it truly hurts.
No one wants to feel difficult emotions, but it's part of the human condition. And the day we can't allow ourselves to acknowledge the importance of feeling all that we feel will be a very sad day indeed.