On Healing : 5 Things I Picked Up from Hitting an All-Time Low

I have just gone through what could be the most painful couple of weeks of my life to date. On February 13, I lost Madie, my 7-year old Chow Spitz. I never thought it would take me this long to grieve over her passing. I’ve lost family pets in the past and although it hurt each time, there has never been anything that has affected me as much as this.

I didn’t just lose a pet, I lost a huge chunk of my heart. And while I may still be mourning her loss. I may also be flooded with guilt, knowing I could have spent more time with her in her very short stay with us.

I canceled most of my engagements the first week of her passing and went on a retreat the second. A part of me can’t help but wish I’ve done this–easily dropped everything, when she needed me most.

Hustling hard is good. But NOTHING, as in no amount of greatness, is worth the pain of losing someone for it. 
Everything happened really fast. Saturday night, we rushed her to the vet. She had to be confined. Sunday morning I dragged my ass to a full-day shoot for an international TV feature. It took me the whole day and by the time we finished, visitors were no longer allowed at the animal clinic. I didn’t sleep well that night. I woke up with a jolt, heart racing, when I heard Nic’s phone ring. My phone is always on silent, I didn’t know I’ve been missing my sister’s calls.

Madie was in critical condition. Our vet suggested we put Madie to sleep but I thought I’d put off that decision until we saw her. I got up and got dressed. By the time we got to her, she has already crossed. We missed her by about 20 minutes.

Had I known I was about to lose her, I would have not gone to the shoot the day before. I would have so willingly sat next to her, slept with her, fought with the doctors so they’d allow me to stay.

I had a major go-see scheduled the day of her passing. I bailed and spent the day with her. I, together with my mom and my sister, brought her to a crematorium. Picked out the prettiest urn and waited for her so we can take her back home with us. It was the best I could do to make up for the time we’ve lost. It wasn’t enough but it was all I could do. I ran out of chances.

While I feel I haven’t lost my why. I lost touch of who I was doing all of this for. 
My entire family was devastated. And at that moment I realized she was gone, I felt so helpless. This, I didn’t have a Plan B for. It was a situation I couldn’t wing and one I couldn’t talk my way out of just like any other problem I face at work.

The past year, I’ve given up weekends. I’ve tried clearing up my calendar on Sundays but I always ended up saying yes every time someone would schedule a meeting or book me for an event. If there was no other weekday to do it, I would make the nearest Sunday an option. Nic and I would be out shooting content, going in and out of meetings for collaborations. It was all good. But then, I also missed weekend afternoons with my family. I would just get video messages from my sister from when my nephews and niece came to visit. I couldn’t believe I thought that was okay.

Madie was a reminder for me to slow the fuck down. To take a step back and look at the bigger picture. 
My mom wouldn’t stop crying. She felt she hasn’t done her all to avoid the situation. She said a whole ton of things but what hit me hard was when she said “All of you were so busy”. It was true. Madie showed no sign of sickness until that Saturday we brought her to the vet. She was scheduled to go for a check-up that same weekend but this happened. Although we felt betrayed by her sickness, I also felt that we didn’t pay enough attention. It was impossible not to see this coming. :'(

What was all the hurry for anyway? Why was I so focused on work when this was the exact reason why I left my day job a few years back?

The only time you have in your hands is the NOW. The past has gone. The future? You can always worry about that later.
I brought this with me from my job as an Account Executive. Plotting timelines, looking at a deadline and working backwards so that all my days were filled and no time went to waste. I’m not really a person to dwell on the past. I’ve always known it made no sense. But taking a better look at things, I realize, I clung a bit too tight to the future, which could be worse. I would always make sure everything was laid down properly.  And I was too busy laying things down, giving all I had to others, that I’ve forgotten about what actually mattered–my family. And time waits for no one. You either get your shit together now and set your priorities straight or you lose your chance. Because if not NOW, when?

Allowing yourself to FEEL speeds up the HEALING process.
I have so much gratitude for every person who took the time to call me, message me, meet up with me just to hold me up. It may not be a big deal to many others but losing someone we consider a family member is just as bad as feeling the world crumble around you.

I took my time.

I cried until I felt there were no more tears to cry. I would stop for a while, and then I would cry again. Each day I would cry less. Some days I would cry once but real hard. I know no other way to deal.

Thankfully, my friends knew me well and none of them suggested I divert my attention to something else like others do. This is The-Fault-in-Our-Stars-cliche but I’m gonna say it, “Pain demands to be felt”. And it SHOULD. Why would we be so willing to savour feelings of happiness and then try to forget about pain when it comes? Why do we want to be distracted from it? Why are we always rushing to feel better?

Madie’s first day at home. <3

As of this writing, I am at the end of the second week. I still haven’t fully healed. I know, because I’m still crying as I type. But pouring all of it out here for people to read is a big step forward for me. They say when pets pass, they save a life from someone in the household. I guess Madie did just that. I’m still shaken but I see how she has saved me.

Madie, darling, I’m not surprised. You’ve always given way– to the smaller dogs, to the puppies when they came. You took the backseat and we let you. :'( You will always be the “Ate” of the household. Thank you and you are terribly missed.