Almost exactly a year ago I learned that when a pet dies – whether it’s in your arms or in your home, or when taken to a veterinarian or when a veterinarian comes to your house to put her or him down – the grief cuts through you so deep you can barely breathe, and it stays. It stays and rears its head when you’re driving, walking down the street, taking a bath, or making dinner. It rears its head when you smell their fur on a pillow, on a sofa, or on a chair. It hits you so hard and so deep and so wide. I also learned something I never knew: partner pets grieve profoundly. Partner pets sleep together, and play together and take care of each other; lick each other’s coats and yes, their wounds, and keep each other clean. When one goes, the other is lost, sad, full of pain that is palpable and visible. They love good, and fully and unconditionally; that I now know wholeheartedly with every single fiber in my being. 

I also know something else – we must stop comparing trauma and suffering and pain – making other humans feel badly or unworthy of their own suffering and pain. No one needed to tell folks a year ago – folks who were without power for days and days and days here on the East Coast – that the people in Puerto Rico had it much worse, and were suffering much more. To be without power – to literally be and feel powerless – is scary and hard and it should bring out the compassion, not the competitive, in all of us.

Competing only makes people feel horribly guilty and awful and, worse, it makes folks feel that their pain doesn’t much matter or count or have any value whatsoever. Something else I know from the inside out: heartbreak is heartbreak, it shouldn’t be weighed by circumstance. I know what it’s like to dig a grave and bury a pet who meant the absolute whole entire world to me – a creature who helped me get through my dark depression and unbearable sadness and loved me when I couldn’t love me. Someone recently wrote that she could barely breathe because her dog had died, and she didn’t know how she would get through a day, and someone responded, “But, it’s only a pet for God sake.’ No, no, no… it’s not just a pet. Not to that woman who wrote in all CAPS that she could barely breathe, and not to me; my cat, my Lotus, was my life-saver. Please, let’s be less judgmental, less critical, less petty. Petty is so unattractive. 

It is not a good accessory to wear or even try on. Let’s stop competing with each other and start completing each other. Let’s stop acting holier than thou with the, “…but it’s only a home, it’s only a pet; it can be replaced, oh, it’s just a car, it’s only a piece of jewelry, it’s only a teddy bear… but but but but it’s only… but it’s only… but think of other folks who have it much worse… but, it’s only…” For folks whose comfort and safety and ease came or come from any of those things, items, possessions; for folks whose unbearable pain comes from the reminder of a touch or a smell or a memory of a pet; for a child who held tight to a stuffed animal to help her or him breathe during an anxiety attack or sadness or a death – and now that stuffed animal is lost, gone, in a fire… it’s not ‘an only’, it’s absolutely everything. It is everything to that person – to that child, to that girl, to that boy, to that woman, to that man. Please, allow folks the luxury of mourning and grieving whatever loss weighs on them; whatever loss that is. It is not ours to judge or criticize someone’s pain or sorrow or suffering or heartache, and it is not up to us to take that away from them. Let’s be humans who show compassion and goodness, and spread kindness everywhere. Let’s be creatures who comfort each other, not diminish the needs of others. Let’s be people who afford someone else their pain, their suffering, their heartbreak; it is what allows us the opportunity to understand and know and love another human heart. Let’s stop comparing and competing. There really is no best in hell.

amy ferris

author. writer. girl

*This post is written in memory of Lori Sokol‘s pet Merlin, a teacup Yorkshire Terrier who left this world on February 9th, after spending 14 years providing unconditional love and support for all who were lucky enough to know him.

Women’s eNews monthly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Once a month you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.