In the days that followed, there were moments of pain when we were reminded of Q: seeing her folded up cage, reaching for two leashes instead of one, and so on. Also, there were doubts. Occasionally, I wondered if I'd gotten her care soon enough after her stroke. Was there anything else I could have done? Did we make the right decision to let her go when we did?
One time while I was taking a nap, I remembered how Q liked to curl up in a ball behind my knees as I was sleeping on my side. In an attempt to comfort myself, I imagined her snuggled in there right at that moment. It was an attempt to feel as if she was still with us, in part. I did feel some relief, and I smiled.
The next time I took a nap, I tried to imagine Q's presence again, and...well...it didn't work. It didn't comfort me. My mind became unsettled, and it bounced from attempting to invoke pleasant memories of her to second guessing our recent decisions.
Two things occurred to me then. The first is that this was a reminder of how I over relied on fantasy to comfort myself when I was a child growing up with my alcoholic father in a very chaotic, unpredictable home. It was my main method for feeling in control and having some power.
When I played basketball in the back yard, I was playing against Larry Bird in the NCAA finals. When I hit the tennis ball against the brick wall of the elementary school for hours at a time, I was hitting a passing shot against Bjorn Borg or John McEnroe to win Wimbledon. I drew my own comics. I pretended I was a rock star as I sang along with my favorite songs.
It took me well into adulthood to use less fantasy and to use better, more mature ways to feel competent and secure.
The second thing that occurred to me was that I was mentally scrambling, trying to find a way not to feel hurt about Q's passing. So, instead of staying stuck up in my head, I took a few deep breaths, and I made a gentle request of myself: Quiet down and simply FEEL. Just "miss her," OK? Nothing more, nothing less.
Just miss her.
Once I calmed myself and just sat with my feeling, it was more manageable. She's gone. I can't undo or redo the past. I feel sad. But it's OK. I'll manage just fine.
Since then, a wave of sadness will wash over me from time to time, but it doesn't last long. We did our very best to be humane and to prevent Q's suffering; now I was doing my best to avoid any unnecessary suffering of my own.
I'm very thankful for the time she spent with us. RIP, Q!