This week, I have been wondering if all grief is the same or if some grief is more poignant than others. As a nation, we mourn the deaths of 20 children and seven adults in the shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut. For the families who are burying their loved ones this week, particularly as the holidays approach, it seems that no loss could be worse.
Yesterday, I lost my beloved Sheltie, Bailey. She passed away while we were driving to Farley. Her death wasn't completely unexpected. She had just celebrated her 13th birthday the day before, and she had been battling heart disease for over six months. I dreaded the thought of losing her, but in my mind I always assumed she would get to a point where her quality of life had deteriorated, and I would have to make the painful choice to put her down. My sweet girl spared me that decision. She was sitting next to me in the front seat, as she had done hundreds of times before in the 11 years we were together. I knew I was losing her, but I was happy to be there with her, comforting her, talking to her, stroking her hair and rubbing her belly, just like I always did. She slipped away in a matter of minutes. I was devastated.
As I sat at home later watching TV, there were numerous updates on the latest with the Sandy Hook tragedy. While I was crying over the loss of my dog, families were burying their six and seven year olds. Did I have the right to really be that sad? I would tell myself no and shake myself out of it. But, later, when I would think of going home to an empty house, the tears would flow again.
Today, I found a little Christmas ornament that I bought last weekend. I had put it with some other items and totally forget about it. When I unwrapped it from the tissue paper, I remembered that I bought it "for Bailey." It was a little slate that read, "What part of woof didn't you understand?"
I'm still conflicted. Driving to Indiana today, I was listening to NPR when they carried coverage of President Obama's press conference appointing Joe Biden to a commission to identify ways to reduce gun violence and keep our citizens safe. I thought he delivered a very important message, especially when he recounted several additional deaths as a result of gun violence that have happened since last Friday.
I don't have any answers. Maybe there aren't necessarily different degrees of grief. Individually we all respond differently. I just know that I will miss my Bailey terribly. She was an awesome dog that was full of personality. This picture was taken less than two days before she died. I called it her birthday picture.