Blindsighted by Guilt

Since I was little, I have always loved being around dogs. Growing up, if you asked what I wanted to be, my answer would likely either be veterinarian or She-Ra Princess of Power. My parents were always concerned I’d end up with a house full of animals if I were a vet, which ended up being the case regardless of my profession. My husband laughs that I’ve introduced him to friends and coworkers by telling him their dog’s name before their own. In my opinion, a house is not a home without a dog.

We had 3 dogs throughout my childhood. Since college, I’ve adopted 6 rescue dogs. Just like children, they all have different personalities, issues, health problems, and strengths. Dash, a black and tan dachshund, is my loyal protector. He had a rough start to life and has many fears and triggers but in ways he knows me better than almost any person in my life. He’s been by my side when I was sick or sad and never fails to make me feel better. He’s got more nicknames than I can count, one for every one of his personalities.

Dori, another black and tan dachshund, is beautiful. Far and away the prettiest dachshund I’ve ever seen. I should have named her Scarlett O’Hara because she has that much sass and spunk. She has epilepsy, gave birth to stillborn puppies and required surgery to remove the puppies she miscarried but couldn’t deliver, she was heart worm positive, and at some point (perhaps during birthing?) had her pelvis broken in 5 places. She’s a MESS but hilarious at the same time. Anxious, annoying, affectionate, unapologetic and unafraid. She absolutely loves my Dad more than anyone.

BatBat (Stellaluna) is a small 5 pound chihuahua that knows no fear. She kicks grass, cuddles/smothers you with love, and guards the yard like a Rottweiler. She gives high fives and loves when you sing to her. Even though she has 4 legs, she runs on 3. Won’t get out of bed in the morning until you sing to her and rub her belly.

Zoe, a dachshund/chihuahua mix, is my love bug. She’s probably the easiest going dog I’ve ever had. She’s happy in all situations – loves to cuddle, play, lick, run, sleep. She follows me pretty much everywhere. Wouldn’t hurt a fly unless it got between her and her food bowl. Her favorite thing in the world is to go to our family farm, run around through the grass and hay, and ride a four wheeler with me. She used to love chasing squirrels in the back yard, but her vision has been getting bad over the last year or two.

Last week, we learned that Zoe has a condition called SARDS (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome) which has caused vision loss. That vision loss resulted in her getting under my feet two weeks ago when I was moving laundry, and I accidentally stepped on her foot and she yelped. The next day she was limping and in pain. She got better with some rest but was in pain again a few days later. I took her to the emergency hospital last Tuesday, then to the vet again on Thursday. We decided to do a CAT (shouldn’t it be DOG??) scan to check for injuries and to rule out a tumor causing her vision problems. The scans showed no tumor – hallelujah! But it did show a small disc injury which is likely causing the nerve pain in her front leg.

It’s really difficult to not place blame on yourself when bad things happen. I blame myself for not knowing Zoe’s eyesight had gotten so bad as a result of SARDS. For accidentally stepping on her paw and causing her pain. For not knowing when or how she injured her back. I blame myself not knowing something was wrong during my pregnancy. For having a defective egg that was possibly the cause of the molar pregnancy. Honestly, I’m just having a tough time being inside my head lately. I find myself submerged in podcasts, books, and TV shows trying to escape the emotional pain and negative voices in my head. I’m realizing that you can’t escape or hide from the grief when you self-blame.

There are times when we think the waves of guilt and grief may drown us. We struggle to keep our heads above water and over time we get stronger. Each experience gives us practice, strength, and knowledge so that when the next wave comes crashing down on us, we can successfully swim against the waves of guilt and grief without being pulled under.

Maybe I need to learn some life lessons from my precious dogs. Become fiercely loyal like Dash, unafraid and unapologetic like Dori, loving and happy like Zoe despite having to navigate through darkness, and learn how to set emotional boundaries around what is ours and what is not ours like BatBat. The grief, pain, and memories are mine, but the blame is not. Yesterday, I talked about our baby for the first time without breaking down in tears and it made me realize I’m not drowning anymore.

I know now that we never get over our losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder creatures.

Today there’s a soft, kind voice echoing inside my mind saying “Beloved, do not make war against your own heart. Love yourself fully – even with your wounds, even with your broken heart.”

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