Yesterday, my dog died.
Well, she didn't die -- I euthanised her. Being a vet, myself, I was able to do that at home, in my living room. That has both good and bad aspects, as you might imagine. It wasn't impersonal or clinical, but now I associate parts of this house -- that sofa, that blanket -- with her death.
The point is: I was sad. I'm still sad. I will probably BE sad for quite a while. And nobody here in this new country I've chosen knows me well enough to be of any real comfort. They try, bless them. Yesterday a coworker brought round a bouquet of flowers, a card, some chocolate. A hug. It was very kind of her. And very much appreciated. But not at all the same as ... well, am I a jerk if I say "a real hug from a real friend"? You know what I mean.
I'm thousands of miles away from real hugs from real friends. After having heard the news, they swarmed me electronically, of course, which was lovely and of huge comfort. But, again, not the same as physical proximity.
How do other solo travelers do this, I wonder. It's one thing to absorb the dozens of myriad inconveniences and disappointments and insults of this process of moving country and changing jobs, thus far, but it's entirely another level to absorb and process the death of a beloved family member, dare I say, on TOP of all that? I've only been here three months, in this house merely two -- my dog's death on some level doesn't feel real because I haven't even had time to get used to seeing her here or there throughout the house. Maybe that's a good thing. Or maybe this will all seem a surreal experience, as if she slipped into a void and merely disappeared, when I look back on this later.
To be honest, I'm not sure how much more I can say about this. Perhaps the brevity of it will serve as further testament to its impact, that I have essentially been rendered speechless by the experience. Not of the death of a beloved pet, as I've been through that before and will do so again and again over the course of my life -- No, that's hard enough but at least something familiar. What I'm talking about is doing that alone, or worse, among strangers.
Tomorrow I'll go to work amongst people I've known for just over three months time, and they will feel awkward and I will feel awkward as we try to navigate the social niceties -- and, not to be too dismissive, as some will truly feel a sad empathy, though they know me as little as I do them -- as they express their condolences. I will feel awkward as I try not to cry, or worse, sob, as: a) I don't know these people, and b) it's not very British to be so openly emotional. Even the client euthanasias I've done whilst here in the UK, the clients seem so stoic compared to Americans, who are quite comfortable having their wailing and sobbing overheard by anyone else in the clinic... No, for the Brits, it's a quiet sniffle, a dab with a handkerchief, and a polite, "I'm so sorry. Please excuse me. Thank you."
So instead I process my grief alone. I mean, ultimately of course we all do even whilst sitting on the sofa and holding the hand of a loved one, it's still a solitary process. And I pick up the pieces and try to walk out into the world and live each day as its own, gathering from it what I may. After all, I don't know how long I'll remain here. Certainly on days like today, I can't help but think the answer is: Not very long. Not very long, at all.