Written by: Andrew Knapp – Please note that I have received compensation in exchange for this blog post.
Andrew Knapp is a New York Times bestselling author of children’s books and picture books. He’s an avid traveler and often exploring how our relationships with our dogs can better our own lives
I don’t believe grief can be fully understood, it can only be experienced. If we fully understood it, we’d have a solution — a recipe for resolution. We’d have access to a procedure or a therapy or a guidebook of sorts that would walk us through a few strategic steps with a certainty of complete healing.
But as we know, grief is a messy experience. And everyone’s grief is subjective. Thus, the tools we need to heal are unique to each of us. Grief can often feel like we’re grasping in the dark for a tool we don’t know how to use. In this modern world of infinite information, we have access to endless support. The work we have, however, is finding the tools that suit us best.
Just over a year ago, I lost my heart dog, Momo. In the generous outpouring of love I received, I found an abundance of support and tools to carry me through my experience. As time went on, many of these tools found their way to the surface and became a part of my own healing.
The following are a collection of metaphors, stories, quotes, tools, and books that helped me through my own grief.
The ball in the box metaphor is one of the more helpful I’ve found. The idea is that when you experience loss, your grief is triggered by a ball hitting a button inside of a box. I know it’s a bit convoluted so here’s an illustration.
Fig. 1 shows us a ball (grief) inside a box (us) and a button (our triggers). When we try to go about our life, that ball bounces around and hits that button often, triggering us to feel any of the countless stages of grief. As time goes by, the ball (our grief) becomes smaller (fig 2.). That button is still there, and still gets triggered, however it happens much less often. Much like the DVD logo hitting the corner of the screensaver in The Office.
Find a metaphor that suits you. I’ve heard grief compared to a river, waves, a rollercoaster, a long valley, a river, and countless others I haven’t heard that might support your journey (oh, a journey is another metaphor).
Here are a few stories — one from a child’s perspective, and one from an old man. The story of Shawn and Belker tells us of a little boy who lost his dog, and had a wiser response than most adults. Have a box of tissues nearby.
Sometimes, all it takes is a collection of strategically arranged words to help us reframe something we can’t quite understand. The following are a few quotes that live inside of me, and offer me comfort from time to time.
“It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”― Jamie Anderson
When asked what happens after we die, Keanu Reeves said “I know that the ones that love us will miss us.”
“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”― C.S. Lewis
- Martin Prechtel on grief and praise. This one is worth sitting down for. Take some time with it, Martin Prechtel speaks to us beautifully.
- Nora McInerny Ted Talk: We don’t “move on” from grief. We move forward with it.
- What’s Your Grief by Eleanor Haley and Litsa Williams
- The Invisible Leash by Patrice Karst
- When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
In our healing journey, I believe the world will give us the tools we need to process it in our own way. Some of the best tools I’ve found were intentional and active processes. I decided to have an at home euthanasia for Momo, which was performed on a friend’s farm with loved ones next to a river. Having a ceremony for Momo, I believe, was fundamental to my own closure. It allowed me to let go. We don’t all have this privilege, as often our pets are taken from us unexpectedly. A ceremony could still be useful in these occasions, or a dedicated event of sorts.
Being outside, meditating, talking with friends, and loving my new dogs Yaya and Boo helped me immensely as well. I hope this article and these tools find you and offer you some comfort in knowing that though your journey is unique, you are not alone.