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The Art of Crying Like No One is Watching

Show Notes

Losing a pet is a profound experience that often leaves us grappling with overwhelming emotions. Today, I’m giving you permission to cry on your journey of pet loss grief and standing up for the need to normalize grieving for a pet.

In a world that often tells us to toughen up and hide our emotions, it’s time to challenge the stigma surrounding tears, especially when it comes to grieving the loss of a beloved pet.

Let’s dive into the significance of allowing ourselves to cry and the importance of normalizing the grief experienced over the death of a furry companion.

What to listen for

  • Your permission to cry
  • What I learned as a child about crying
  • Tears as natural detox
  • How society suppresses our grief over losing a pet
  • A path to healing the world

This is your permission to cry.

This is your permission to let a single tear trickle down your cheek as you’re standing on the light rail into work.

This is your permission to go into a full-on, ugly bawl, the whole nine yards of eating your snot wherever you are, whenever you are.

When you’re hit with a moment of grief after your best fur friend has died, this is your permission to cry.

You’ve said goodbye to your companion animal, the cat, dog or horse or whichever animal suits your fancy. They were your best friend for years, a decade or decades.

You had a relationship built on unconditional love, companionship and mutual devotion.

Your pet was not – quote – just a dog – unquote. Your pet was a best friend, a soulmate, a copilot, a beloved member of your family.

This grief, this pain can be so overwhelming.

And yes, my love, you are allowed to cry.

But we don’t always give ourselves permission to do that.

Let’s talk a minute first about why crying is good for us. I don’t just cry when I’m grieving. I cry when I’m happy … like sometimes I look at Bella or just even think about her, and the power of the love we have for each other makes my eyes well up.

I cry when I get angry. And you know that kind of angry. Like when your fists are clenched into balls of rage and all of a sudden … BAM … tears. It’s so antithetical to our fury, isn’t it?

It’s the emotion of quite literally flooding out of us.

Tears are a symbol of emotional release.

I come from a family where tears meant being told “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

I come from a family where crying was meant to be done in private, quietly out of the view of everyone.

I come from a family where crying was a sign of weakness … and no one should see a MacIsaac as weak.

I know a lot of you out there have had similar experiences.

And maybe we’re still embarrassed or ashamed to cry. Far being a sign of weakness, crying is a vital mechanism for maintaining emotional balance and well-being.

From the day we were born, our crying is a way for us to communicate discomfort, pain or distress. We cried to signal hunger, fatigue, poopy diapers.

As we grow older, the reasons we cry become more complex … bad grades, broken bones, heartbreak … loss and death.

And with all that pain, all that hurt, crying allows our bodies to release stress hormones and toxins. Yeah, it’s our own natural detox center.

Tears even contain hormones – prolactin and adrenocorticotropic – that are associated with stress reduction and mood regulation. Shedding tears helps us shed stress and relax.

It also triggers the release of endorphins, our bodies’ natural painkillers. Endorphins are little feel-good buggers that help to alleviate physical and emotional pain, bringing us closer to our center and a space of comfort.

In other words, it helps us cope with difficult emotions and the shit things that happen in life.

And it doesn’t just help us cope with those emotions. It also allows us to process them. Stop for a hot minute and wonder where those tears came from, why are we crying, what the hell is going on? Take some time to reflect on the moment and gain some insight into what is causing our pain, maybe gradually learning how to confront that pain and release it.

And even with all that knowledge, we might still feel silly or ashamed when we get caught crying. We may even catch ourselves crying in solitude, thinking “well, that’s stupid, why am I crying about that?”

The world around us – not just the world in the MacIsaac family – values emotional restraint, pulling up your bootstraps and keeping your damn feelings to yourself.

Societal conditioning has created a culture of emotional repression, a world in which expressing our vulnerability is equated with failure or inadequacy. Couple that with a grief-avoidant culture and whoaboysie, aren’t we a mess?

So we hide our tears and put on a brave face.

But … what if …

What if we stared society in the face and gave it the ol’ finger? What if we start to normalize our tears and encourage open dialogue about our feelings?

What if we talk about how much it sucks that our dog just died and that we feel so alone and lost without him?

Because yeah, it sucks.

We often spend a decade or more attached to this animal. We have a unique and profound relationship built on love, companionship and devotion. Our pets aren’t “just” animals. They’re members of our families, their presence is often preferred over that of other humans, isn’t it?

When they die, we’re left devastated in a world that doesn’t always understand the bond we shared. And we’re left knowing that not only does general society not want to put up with our tears in general, they sure as shit don’t want to deal with our grief over a pet.

Suppressing our tears, though, denies us the opportunity to grieve naturally and fully and prevents us from fully processing our emotions.

Grief is so complex and overwhelming and it manifests in so many different ways. We need the time and space to process all this, adjust to our new normal and by allowing ourselves the time to cry, we create space for understanding, growth and healing.

In that space, we find too a continued connection to our beloved companion animal. Our tears are a testament to the depth of our bond and can help us remember the times before the sick and the old crept in to take our babies away.

Those who may be uncomfortable with our tears over a dog or a cat or a horse simply don’t understand what it means to love an animal like this.

They, my friends, are the ones who maybe should feel shame and embarrassment for trivializing our tears and our grief.

For undermining the significance of this experience in our lives.

For adding to our pain, rather than trying to alleviate it in some way.

For not having loved like this, for not having been loved like this. 

Our grief is legitimate and warrants these tears. Our grief does not belong on a comparison chart with mothers, children, grandparents, best friends, miscarriages, divorce, any kind of loss.

If you have an opinion that one type of grief is worse than another, throw it out. There is no one worst type of grief. They are all awful and they are all different.

And yet here we are … in a world that forces us to internalize our grief over our pets and hide our tears away.

When we allow others to see our tears, though, we can start this movement toward normalizing the experience – not just the experience of our crying but also the experience of our grief, our grief for our animals.

And we can start a movement that opens the dialogue about those emotions and our grief.

I believe we can take the movement and create a more inclusive and supportive society where all feel safe to express their feelings without fear of judgment or shame.

By challenging the stigma around our tears with our tears, by embracing our vulnerability over the loss of our best fur friend, we turn our tears into a sign of strength, not weakness.

We liberate ourselves from the shame society has bestowed upon us.

We reclaim our right to express our feelings authentically and unapologetically.

And we honor the life we shared with companion animal.

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