It is not simple to grieve for a dog in public, along with thousands of other people who loved him also. It is not simple to photograph and share a private process, although I am committed to it, and I believe it is important. It is not easy for Maria to be the one photographed, as I can be safe and anoymous behind the camera. I thank her for it. It is not easy to be married to me either, I imagine.
It is not simple to grieve in sync with others, some of whom are not yet ready to move on, and are not comfortable with my doing so. Or in the open, where one's emotions are on display and the subject of general and wide discussion. It is not easy, but it is important, and valuable. In grief, there is enormous interest, and waves of people coming to see and share. If I grieved every day, I'd have a million readers. I'd rather do it with my writing.
We all cling to our own ideas of grief. And are entitled to them. I posted a photo of Lenore lying on Izzy's grave, and a number of people contacted me, saying they were certain that Lenore wanted to be near Izzy, and was not simply being a Lab. I love Lenore dearly, and know her well, and I am pretty comfortable with the notion that she is not into grieving, or human-style mourning. She goes into Izzy's crate each morning, looking for crumbs or leftover treats. She does not need to grieve like I do or we do to be a great dog.
Isn't it possible you were wrong, they wrote? Isn't it possible she was missing Izzy and also stealing his spot? Was I denying grief, rushing past it too fast?
I don't know what to say to that. Sure, it's possible. So what? It's not what I see or believe. It is hard for people to let others go their own way.
I very much favor the idea of grieving being individual and personal, but I also feel strongly that it is selfish, even exploitive to project our own grief and loss into animals who are very different from us in the way they process life and loss and death. And I won't do it.
I got a message from a friend concerned that I was writing a lot about Izzy, and wondering if I did not need to be calm and still in grief. I do not. This is how I process grief – I meditate for hours, I write a hundred things, take a thousand photos, write poems, take long walks with Maria, spend hours alone with my Ipod. I cry every now and then, say a few words over Izzy's grave each morning. In grief, my mind races with emotion, and if it doesn't come out I will erupt like a geyser at Yellowstone. I get drowsy, melancholic, get the chills. Then, I begin the process of moving on. I love Buddhism, but I would drive Buddha crazy and out of the faith. I do not think Izzy has gone to join Rose. I do not believe his spirit remains here looking over me. I do not believe we will meet in the afterlife, or on the bridge. Sometimes we really do lose the things we love. I believe – this is faith for me – that grieving is a universal, not an individual experience. There is no one reading this who has not suffered an equivalent or worse loss. Mine is no deeper than yours. That is not death, it is life and I do not wish to live in loss for very long.
Saturday, I worked on my next children's book. Sunday, I wrote about the fox and chickens for Slate Magazine. This week I will finish the children's book and send it off. In between I took about a million photos, studied the light, experimented with lens. Grief opens me up, and out comes a lot of stuff, and nothing is more healing than that. I look forward to life, not loss. Living with Maria in this wonderful life, I celebrate life rather than mourn death. That is how I grieve for sweet, sweet, Izzy.