The bread isle is the perfect hiding place for a good cry. I barely make it there before the tears and snorts embarrassingly bubble over like a glass of champagne. I pinch my side to keep from crying.
"She was only a dog, not a person…just get over it."
It has been 6 days. Each morning I wake and think it’s time to take Zelda out. 6 times I’ve left for work and thought it’s time to fix her breakfast. And 6 more evenings, I come home and think I see her rounding the corner to greet me.
As a Boca Raton psychologist, I am a collector of stories. Everyday people come to my office to share the events of that week, secrets, fears, wishes and loneliness. Often they talk about the past and relationships. The ones they left behind and the ones who left. But mostly people come to show me their pain, in hopes that I may be able to take it off their shoulders, if only for 50 minutes.
Now this therapist is standing in isle seven surrounded by options…wondering how do I cope with losing her? Where do I put my grief?
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches us to change our thinking patterns from harmful into more realistic and helpful. CBT challenges us all to stand up to the symptoms of depression, anxiety, addiction and grief and declares you have the power to disagree with what your brain is telling you.
Everyday, I go to work as a counselor and empower people to challenge their negative thoughts, view them as distortions and change them into a weapon against despair. I will have to incorporate those same belief systems and strategies to get a hold of my loss and practice what I preach.
Here is how I will do that:
Zelda devoted her entire life to me. The last few years, I became consumed with taking care of my children, my husband and job. I made little time for her and often barely gave her a pat on the head after walking in from a long day of work, choosing rather to make a fuss over my children and chores = Guilt/Sadness
When the veterinarian came to the house to put her down and asked if I was ready for the first injection, I should have said goodbye then not realizing that it was anesthesia and she would be too out of it to feel my presence = Regret
Zelda acclimated herself well to my life transitions for over 14 years. She regularly enjoyed being with the family, playing or laying quietly. She was never alone by day or night and was surrounded my love and laughter. She was fed, sheltered and safe. During the last year of her life, I spent special times with her because I knew she didn’t have long. = Acceptance/ Peace
I researched www.LapofLove.com, an organization that sends a veterinarian to your house to assess your dog for terminal illness and pain. I put her down in the comfort of her own home, next to me. I said goodbye quickly and without letting her suffer any longer. The last thing she ever felt was my presence and love = Relief
Above I have detailed a couple of the automatic negative thoughts and subsequent negative emotions, I experienced all week. Below that, I have modified those distortions into thoughts that are going to help me accept the loss of my friend. Even as I write, I feel some relief from the emptiness I woke up with this morning, when I remembered all over again she is gone.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is not a cure. It cannot fix mental health problems or bring loved ones back. It is merely a tool to help us combat the enemy that is our inner most private thoughts. It is the system that demands you face your demons and decide to strip their power. It is mind over matter. CBT is only one type of recourse we have against the darkness that we all face. In my sessions I will share with you more.
If I choose today to modify my negative thoughts and use that information as content to better understand my fears and insecurities, then I am actually taking my negative experiences and using them to prepare myself for what is to come, good and bad.
Throughout the years living with this animal, she taught me to focus on what’s good. I can’t think of a better way to honor her memory then by challenging my negative thoughts and creating a perspective that will protect me every step of the way.
Rest in Peace old friend.
Zelda Hershman Mor 06-27-2017
Written by: Blair H. Mor, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
MorMindful Therapy & Psychiatry