Sep 21, 2011

Defining Loss

Earlier last week, a fellow horse friend’s son underwent brain surgery for an abscess.  This young man had been hospitalized off and on over the last several weeks and it wasn’t until recently that they could identify what was causing his illness.  A risky surgery, we were all glued to Facebook that day waiting for updates.  And when we received the good news of his successful surgery, there was a collective sigh of relief which went through our online equine community.  While prayers are still being offered for his strength and that of his family during this recovery, we are happy to know he is home with his family again. 

The loss of a loved one is something most of us fear.  As a parent, it is particularly hard when we know someone’s child is suffering because we easily relate to the pain the parent must be feeling which is beyond what any of us want to face.  Someone posted that having a child go through this ordeal kind of puts the loss of a horse “into perspective.”

Zing.  No doubt geared toward the recent notes of sympathy that I received on the same list serv following the loss of Ginger.  And I couldn’t agree more.  Our priorities in life should focus on the people we love.  It doesn’t, however, make the loss of our pets any less real.  How do you define loss? 

I have to admit that although Ginger was technically John’s horse, I felt the loss as if she were my own.  She was our first horse; the one I feared and the one who helped me overcome that fear.  She was the one I would loan to friends to ride; she was my spare.  As the mother to Windy, I recognized her traits in my own horse.  I told the girls I am camping with this week that I have not taken the loss of an animal this hard since I lost Macy, our springer spaniel, in 1998.  The support from my friends though this ordeal has been incredible and comforting. 

Over the last few days as I have been working to come to grips with my grief, I worry about John.  He suffered a loss, too.  How he must feel to not have his horse out in the pasture anymore.  Has he thought about upcoming rides and his plans?  Does he look at Blue or Butter and know that even though they are there to ride, they aren’t “his horse”?  We haven’t talked about the loss of his dad in 2004, how can he articulate how he feels about the loss of something which has been recently pointed out as less consequential?  Is it any wonder that it is uncomfortable for people to share their feelings about a loss of a pet when others call you out for not putting it “in perspective”. 

This blog was created to share my horse life and unfortunately, it now includes the loss of one of our best horses.  And “best” has nothing to do about how well she was trained or a pedigree; it is about how much we loved her.  It is not to make it any less than or greater than it was.  There is still human sickness, death and war going on and the death of my horse was really a blip on no one’s radar but our own and those who loved her.  I understand this, but it doesn't make the loss any easier to take.  And it does kind of piss me off when people tell me how I should or shouldn't be feeling. 


  1. I'm so sorry that anyone would dare to tell you how you should feel. That is absurd! And very cold.

    If I even try to picture loosing one of my horses as you have, it breaks my heart. I can only imagine the grief you are feeling.

    Words don't do justice ~ I send a ((hug)) instead.

  2. Anonymous11:09 PM

    The two types of loss are each their own thing - that's like saying that one type of love is bigger/better than another. And feeling one type of loss doesn't take away from the ability to feel another. Perhaps the person who said the hurtful things to you was just acting out of personal pain or fear - that's usually what causes people to say inappropriate/hurtful things. Maybe someday they'll understand what you already do. Sending best wishes to you and your family.

  3. I find it very sad that people just don't "get" the loss of a beloved pet. I have lost many (dogs/cats/goats) over the years and it never ceases to amaze me what people have said to me about a loss. "It's just a cat (or dog/goat)!" No, it's not just a cat. It was MY cat and THAT cat meant the world to me.
    Everyone has a different perspective on life, especially animal life. There are ones like us, that grieve and hurt so bad for the loss of our animals and then there are ones that couldn't give a damn.
    I am sorry people haven't been kind about the loss of your beloved horse. People can be so hurtful.
    Sending many thoughts and hugs your way.

  4. I don't think anyone believes that you are suffering over the loss of your horse in the same way you would the loss of one of your sons. You're a sensible person - you know there's a difference.

    There's nothing sensible about grief though. It takes its own course. So much about it has to do with timing and circumstance as well as the object you are mourning. Had you lost Ginger 10 years from now after a long illness, you'd still be sad but it would be a different kind of sad.

    People will always judge (I'm admittedly judgmental myself too often). Try not to take it personally. It says more about THEM than about YOU.

  5. One of the most disrespectful things a person can do is to dismiss or invalidate the feelings of another person. The reasoning doesn't matter in the least.

    I am incredibly happy that the child is making an amazing recovery, but I do not think this takes away from, or "puts into perspective", your loss.

    The two are very different situations. Your feelings of grief are NOT invalid.

  6. The idea of qualifying grief is ridiculous, and I have no patience for people who can't understand that. It's like the ultimate manifestation of the acquaintance who when you say, "I'm tired," always has to respond, "Oh yeah, well I was up ALL night."

    When people say these sorts of things I tend to think about how empty their lives must be. You feel the loss of Ginger because you loved her. Sure, we love some things more than others, but love is love. It is by definition an intense emotion. It hurts to lose something you love, no matter what. No one should try to tell you you're feeling the wrong thing.

  7. I have had people over the years tell me that the love I have for my dogs is misplaced. Coincidentally, these same people had never had a 4-legged companion, so as much as their comments pissed me off, I felt pity for them for never having experienced unconditional love. You and your husband have suffered a loss and your hearts are broken. I hope that the sadness that you are currently experiencing soon turns to the happy memories of her.

  8. Love does not need to be qualified. Everyone that touches the deepest parts of your soul deserves the respect of your mourning upon thier loss, no matter if it be man or beast.

    It is not for anyone to judge how or for what another mourns. It would be a better world if more people would try to understand before offering their opinion. And if they simply don't feel the same, to at least have the compassion to respect another's suffering.

  9. THIS is exactly why people suffer in silence oftentimes when they lose a beloved pet: this idea that it is silly and we ought to just 'get over it'. It's not as if anyone thinks the grief for an animal is the same as grief for a child...but that's not to deny that it IS grief!

    Anyone who cannot see that the two are different and yet exhibit some of the same characteristics is very out of touch with his emotions. Sorry for him. Dial him over-and-out.


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