cw: pet illness, pet death, grief, death, loss, bereavement
You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.
Only a fire can teach you what survives a fire. No, it teaches you what can survive that fire.
―Sarah Manguso, 300 Arguments
By now you know we've lost our girl. When we got home from the animal hospital last Tuesday, I was wild and ragged with grief but I convinced myself that I had to write down what happened, every detail, every moment, every single instance of feeling panic and a hollowing out of every cell in my body. I kept starting but eventually I realized that I didn't need to do this. It happened the way these things tend to: very suddenly, without warning, in the most mundane and cliched ways. It was all of these things because there's nothing more common than death; no matter how it happens, it happens to all of us and every single person and creature we love. It feels pointed and personal and deliberate when it happens to us but it's not—this is the most and least comforting thing about it. Somehow, finally in my life, I knew that I couldn't write my way out of grief and so I drank water and ate at regular times and slept when I could. I sat with my grief, my broken heart, for the first time ever immediately after a loss; I'm not ok but I know I owed it to myself to not distract myself from my feelings.
I wrote down a lot of thoughts in a note on my phone over the past week:
when I was little and woke up scared in the middle of the night I used to run down the hall to my parents' bedroom with my eyes closed when I was scared and now I find myself doing that now that Nuggy's gone; moving through the apartment and trying not to see what I'm terrified of and I know to be true: she isn't going to be there
this grief like every grief is different and specific but it's also an echo of every other grief i've felt
stop trying to fill spaces with new things, it won’t make you miss her less
you can’t change everything in your life in order to forget, you’ll always remember. your body remembers.
loving gets into your muscles and your bones and tissues, you might forget in your head for a second but then the memory is there in your body
grief feels like love with no outlet, where do I put all of this love now?
it’s astonishing what you can live through
I don't have answers for some of this, most of this. I wish that grief was something you could master and get better at but it's devastating every single time. You might get better at your coping mechanisms, at not distracting yourself or throwing yourself into something or someone else, but the process of grieving is the same no matter when you get to it. I am in it and in some senses, we're always in it with grief. We may not remain completely wrecked as time passes but there will be moments where that feeling is as fresh as the day it initially happened. There isn't a process, there isn't a workflow, there isn't any sense to it except to let yourself feel it when you can—the grief and especially the love.
That's the one thing I've made sense of when it comes to grief: it really is love with no direction, no immediate focus. Where does it go? Where do you put it? I've been thinking about it a lot, not just since Nuggy died but since I was diagnosed with a chronic degenerative illness, since my husband had cancer in his thirties, since my aunt, my abuelo, my mom, my abuela all died by the time I was in my early thirties. I felt cursed but I also felt lucky in a sense: my moments of grief were dark but my joy was palpable, intense as my heartache but infused with the knowledge that this life is limited, that it goes fast, that love means so so much because what we have together, with those we love, is ultimately limited. Loss has changed me but it's also revealed me and I'm forever grateful for that.
For most of my life, I thought of myself as a writer. Words are my main medium and they help me communicate with those around me; I'm grateful to be able to express myself this way. Writing has helped me work through so many things and then it led me to realize I needed help processing and I have been able to do that in therapy. I've become myself in ways that have surprised me. It feels like I was living as a bunch of fragments of a person in one body for most of my life. In the past few years, I have been able to grow, I have been able to safely face loss and work through it and heal. I have been able to connect the younger parts of myself that suffered harm and loss with the adult I’ve become and see myself as a complete person. It feels as if younger versions of myself were trying to make decisions and choices from places of heartache and fear, and now, there is synthesis and the ability to safely choose what I want and need in my life from places of safety and connection.
This is the part where I tell you (unless I already told you) that a few months ago I applied and was accepted into a training program to become a relational psychotherapist. I'm going back to school in a few weeks and in a few years I'll hopefully be a therapist.
Professionally, all the careers I've had are different but the one thing they have in common is that I love to communicate with others and build connections with them. It might seem like a big change to become a psychotherapist but when I really think about it, when the people in my life hear me talk about it, it’s obvious that this is not so much a career choice for me as it is a life’s calling. In the past, I have written about my life and experiences and worked through so much and connected with others; it is clear to me now that the most important thing to me is to be of service to others by being in relation to them the way my therapists have been with me. So many things in life are random but there also seems to be a purpose to things like healing and connection, and I can see now that my past has led me to this field and opportunity.
I am someone with a complex intersection of identity. Even though my therapist does not share all of these identities with me, she helps me feel seen and validated in my own experiences. I want to do the same for my future clients, especially those from marginalized groups who may require extra therapeutic support. Living in quarantine for the past 18 months has left me with a lot of time to think and it’s very obvious to me that this is not just the time to begin this journey, but that we as people need community, we need support, we need access to therapy and resources that can help us feel heard and understood.
When I used to think about training to be a therapist, I worried that I wouldn’t be good enough. I have always had so much respect for what therapists do, and I was almost a little starstruck. I wondered if my past traumas were too much baggage to really be a good therapist. Therapy has taught me that therapists are people and that everyone brings their experiences wherever they go, that your past doesn’t keep you from being in relationship with others, from being able to understand and empathize with your clients. I’ve learned how to care for myself and how to carry and process my baggage: how to see it, how to learn from it, how to keep what I need, and how to leave what’s no longer serving me. It couldn’t have happened without loss, it couldn't have happened without love—nothing is forever except love. I promise.
You're probably wondering: yes, You've Escaped will still be coming to you once a week in your inbox! I mention this now because we are also nearing the one year anniversary of this iteration of YE and I'm just so grateful to have you all reading and replying and sharing. I used to think the point was the writing but it's actually the communication and connection with all of you that has been so incredibly fulfilling. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
With the one year mark looming, this means that for those of you who signed up around launch, you'll be seeing renewals processed in the coming two weeks (depending on the exact day you subscribed). Your support is extremely appreciated and really helps to make YE (and me paying my tuition lolz) happen. All of the Substack subscriptions have been transferred over to Buttondown so you'll see the charge from Buttondown via your payment method. If you have any questions, feel free to reply to this email!