Pets can provide so much more than unconditional love. For Sarah Rathsack, her dog was an important part of her family - and her migraine journey.
Losing a pet is beyond difficult for many. Having to say goodbye to my dog Lucia and grieve the loss of her has been a long process and forever will be. The loss created a void that will never be filled. After 13 years with my faithful companion, I had to learn how to live without her. She was my best friend, my first child, and my therapy pet that gave more to me than I could ever give to her. It wasn’t and isn’t just difficult — losing her has been life-changing.
After my dog passed away, I physically missed her. I missed petting her, hugging her, and cuddling with her in bed. She’d walk up and lick me as if she were saying, “Hey, mom.” She always had a way of getting her butt or ears scratched and thought she was a lap dog at 60 pounds.
Lucia’s physical presence was instrumental in my battle against migraine and having her nearby was almost therapeutic. In losing her, I also lost my migraine companion. Lucia witnessed some of my darkest days and was always there for me, coming to lay by my side and comfort me while I tried to ride out the pain. I felt like a piece of my body had been removed with her gone. I miss her warmth and the confidence she gave me that she would see me through anything. She shared my migraine battle with me, and her presence gave me strength.
Lucia made my house come alive. She was my shadow, and everywhere I went I heard the pitter patter of her four paws behind me. I knew every time she moved from the jingle of her collar. At night her even breathing calmed me — when she let out a big sigh before bed, that was our sign that the house was settled for the evening.
Without her, the house became quiet, still, and empty in the worst way.
I stopped having my running conversations with her. Like many pet owners, I had a certain voice I spoke to her in — after she was gone, I knew I’d never use that voice again. The silly, funny things that I spoke to her would no longer be said. I will never use one of her million nicknames again.
After she passed, I started having anxiety approaching my house when I knew she wouldn’t be there to greet me. I didn’t even want to be at home most of the time, but my migraine attacks forced me to stay in. It didn’t feel like home without filling up her water bowl, letting her out, and feeding her. Her schedule was part of our schedule.
Saying goodbye to all the little “mementos” Lucia left behind was equally hard. I sobbed while cleaning nose-smeared windows that I knew would remain clean. I had my car detailed so I wouldn’t have to sweep up the hair she left on the seats and carpets — I was always battling that hair, yet watching it go into the vacuum for the last time was painful. Putting her bed and toys away felt like losing her all over again.
Lucia was a big part of my life — I shared all or part of almost every single day with her, and her absence is profound.
For humans, we have funerals, memorial services, and (hopefully) support. When we lose animals, life is supposed to go on as normal. I still went to work, I still took care of my children, and I still battled migraine — now, all without her. She was the first one to greet me in the morning, right by my side when I woke up each day. She was the smile when I walked in the door from a long day of work, and she laid by my side for the even longer days of migraine. She was my family, and there was a piece of my heart that only existed for her.
If I could thank my dog, I’d thank her for giving me more than I could ever give her.
Even after a year and the many years to come, I will miss her. I remind myself how lucky I was to have had her in my life, especially as I battled a chronic illness. Our pets don’t live long enough and there is never a good time to say goodbye. As time continues, so does the grieving — and the healing. There is no specified amount of time that it takes to finish grieving a loss, and as my therapy pet, I don’t expect to ever “get over” my Lucia. She was part of my migraine army. I will always miss her. I will always feel loss. I will always look back and smile at all that she gave.
For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
NPS-US-NP-00452 JULY 2019
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