Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

My dog passed away recently. If you’ve never had a pet, it may be hard for you to understand the feelings involved in losing an animal. The relationship with a pet is like no other. Pets are companions who communicate with us without words. They provide us with (and teach us about) unconditional love, but they are also responsibilities, like children. And many of us feel their loss as intimately as the loss of a human being.

We lose relationships under all kinds of circumstances. Some relationships are lost through death, divorce or even arguments. Others are lost when we leave jobs or move. By my age (46), most of us have had some experience with loss. I’ve experienced more than I thought possible. As a result, I’ve reached some conclusions about what it means to lose someone who is important in your life.

One conclusion is that people and pets cannot be replaced. We can move on and form new relationships, but no one is replaceable. Period. Each of us is so different, and what we offer is so unique. Perhaps to the larger world, we are unimportant and easily replaced. However, to those who are in intimate relationships with us, we are as unique as our fingerprints. And when a relationship is gone, it leaves behind a void that cannot be filled.

I’ve also learned that we will always have regrets when a relationship ends. Why? Because we are human beings, and therefore, by our very nature, we are imperfect. So we are never good enough to those who are closest to us. We get caught up in our own issues and To Do Lists instead of spending time with others. We are limited by our immaturity, so we don’t always treat others properly. The reality is that we will never be kind enough, loving enough, or patient enough with those we love most. I often think about my husband and daughter, and it pains me to know that I will never be as good to them as they deserve. So in the end, there is no relationship that does not have regrets attached.

What is also hard is that we never know when a relationship will be lost. I had a friend die from sleep apnea when we were both in our early 30s. His death came from out of nowhere. There was no chance to say goodbye because I had no idea that goodbyes were even in order. My dog was 16 years old, the vet told me that he was at the end, and still I found his death to be a shock. We simply are never fully prepared to lose someone dear.

What have I learned from all this? I’ve learned that relationships are so very precious. I’ve learned that people and pets inevitably leave our lives, sometimes without notice. And then there is no turning back. And the void that they leave cannot be filled.

Is there a solution? Well, we cannot change the fact that life is finite. However, perhaps we can be more careful with how we treat others during the limited time that we have with them. Perhaps if we take into account the fragility of life when we choose how we spend our time, we will have fewer regrets when the day comes that we finally part.

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