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To Each Her Own: Differences in Grieving

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Our dog, Vinnie, died last week. He wasn’t very old, only 7. He died of a very aggressive kind of lymphoma. He was Andrea’s dog and I was his adopted “aunt.” Our hearts were breaking the day we took him to the vet to help him start the next part of his journey. Afterwards, we cried and talked about Vinnie and how weird it felt to be without him, to be driving home with his empty crate in the back of the van.

I thought out loud about how I wanted to put his picture up on Facebook with an announcement about his passing. I asked Andrea for a good picture of him to post as well as to use for a sign in front of our driveway a la Rosie. After listening to my plans for a bit, Andrea quietly said, “I wish you wouldn’t do that.” She went on to say that she would like to notify her close friends individually before the news was made public and she wasn’t sure when she would feel like doing that.

I suddenly realized this was the first loss we had experienced together. I had assumed her way of grieving was like mine: Tell everyone right away so I can get the emotional support I need. But hers is very different. She needs to have her own space and honor her own timing about who she tells and when.

I shared my realization about our different responses to loss and we came up with a compromise. She was fine with my public announcements, but only after she had contacted those people in her inner circle. She would do this within the next few days and let me know when it was okay for me to go ahead with my plans. And she did.

I was really glad it had dawned on me that not only was Andrea’s style different than mine, but that neither was a “better” way than the other. Together, we have honored each other’s needs for healing. I wish the same for you when you share a loss with another.

Vinnie in 2003

In memoriam: “Montana” Vinnie, Dark Knight Forever My Heart
Rest in peace, little man.

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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.