When my lovebird Shredder died, I was really devastated. I knew it was coming. But therefore the grief was no less. We were inseparable. And now I had to do all the daily things without him (and his cozy chatter on my shoulder). I missed him terribly and I didn't know what to do without him.
Also, I was afraid that as time passed, the memories I had of him would gradually fade away or even be lost. In my opinion this would mean that I would lose him even more. And then, the idea for this book was born. I wanted to write down all the memories I had of him. Nothing was to be lost!
How I dealt with Shredder's death
When a friend's dog died, she asked me to write down how I dealt with the loss of Shredder.
This is what I wrote to her:
"When Shredder died I was devastated. I knew it was coming, because he had not been fit for a while. So luckily it didn't happen unexpectedly. But that made the pain of the loss no less. The evening he died was awful. I really thought I was going crazy. My best friend, my beautiful, sweet Shreddebabe, was gone… I called his name and collapsed. I screemed a thousand times that I loved him and that he had to come back... His passing really broke my heart.
He died while I was holding him.
That evening I did not let go of him anymore. But when it eventually was time to go to bed in the middle of the night, I made a bed for him next to me from the vest he Always slept in.. (He had no cage and always slept in the sleeve of a vest. That's what he liked best) This way he was still close to me.
The next day did not have to start for me. Because that would only mean that from now on I would have to wake up every day without Shredder. And I really couldn't imagine that.… I felt so incomplete. They sometimes say that it seems like a part of you dies when someone dear to you passes. Well…. It really felt like that!! I was no longer myself without him. I was really inconsolable and broken ... In 10000000000000 pieces ...
Because Shreddertje used to live with my friend Donna before he came to live with me, I now also had to tell Donna what had happened. And I knew how much Shre meant to her, even though there were thousands of miles between them (Donna lives in Brazil). So difficult….
But am truly eternally grateful to Donna for what she said to me then. I had made an appointment for the same day at the animal crematorium. But it still felt so fresh and I just couldn't say goodbye to my winged friend. When Donna heard that I already had the appointment for that evening, she immediately said that it was too soon. So I then postponed the appointment for 2 days.
This has done me a lot of good. That's how I really got to say goodbye to Shredder the best I could. I went to visit my mother with him. Because he Always joined us when we visited her.. And if we left for a longer period of time (but never longer than 9 days, that was really the maximum, because I couldn't be without him any longer), he stayed with her. So she was also able to say goodbye to him.
The night before we had the appointment at the crematorium, I slept quite well. And,…. I had a very nice "dream". I dreamed about Shredder. In my dream he was also gone. I held him in my hand. He was actually lying in my hand, like he always was on his back, if he wanted to be tickled. But he “woke up” for a moment, stood up and gave me nibble kisses on my nose, as he always did. Then he looked at me for a moment, and then he lay down again and was gone again. I really feel like he was alive for a while and wanted to say it was ok. It just didn't feel like a goodbye. Because if this could feel so real, it couldn't be a goodbye, could it? Either way, it was very beautiful and comforting. It really felt good. And it helped me a lot.
In the crematorium we held a very nice little ceremony for him and I wrote him a letter. He had made his nest out of a shoebox. He took all the carefully selected shredded papers into that box and made a big nest out of it. So beautiful! The only one allowed to come near his nest was me. Others were chased away. This was really his territory and he felt safe there. So I thought it would make sence that he would be cremated in his beautiful nest. Because then he would also feel safe. I did give him things to take with him, like things he liked to eat, a card I got from Donna (because he lived with her first), a tuft of hair from me, some playing things and the letter I had written. I also didn't want anyone else to touch him. So I took him to the oven myself. I am very happy that I did that. But it was also very difficult. The moment the oven closed I completely broke….
Fortunately he was allowed to come home with me immediately. But first we went to a little chapel to light a candle and then went for a drink.. There I drank about 193 liters of wine on my own. Oooooh my god,…. I really needed that!!
After that, you have to try to get through your days. What a struggle! Everything is so different. So empty and the silence is deafening. To be honest, I don't really know how it went. It was December, so everyone was in a festive mood. But of course not me... But on the other hand, that gave me some distraction.
I really found it very difficult to clean up his things. I didn't even vacuum at all in the beginni.ng. Because that would mean that I would clean up his messes. And those cozy little messes would never come back. But when my boyfriend started complaining I had to, of course. And the little tongue prints that he always made in one place on the mirror in the bathroom. I couldn't clean them either. I always cleaned around that. It even took more than a year for me to clean it up. But I had to. There were really too many splashes of water on it. Otherwise they would probably still be there now. I must honestly say that I still mop around 2 places in the living room. (I'm so embarrassed...) Because there are still 2 little poopies in a place where he liked to sit. Oh yeah,…. And speaking of those poopies… It was actually very normal that I walked around with clothes where mister Shredder had left a little green and white surprise on. So I also have a cardigan with a little poopie on it. I don't wear it anymore. But I just like to keep it that way.
Anyway, .. The first months were very difficult. When I was at home, Shredder used to be with me all day. And now he was gone... It was, like I said, really a struggle. I was no longer myself, without him. I was no longer complete and had to rediscover myself. I found it very difficult that everything just went on. As if nothing had happened. But for me everything had changed. Nothing was as it was before. I really felt kind of lost. And often quite misunderstood. Because for many people, Shredder was "just a little bird".
He was not "just a little bird"! His character was bigger than an elephant! (And sometimes bigger than a T-rex. For example, if he was hungry, or if my boyfriend came too close to me.) And he certainly wasn't just replaceable. I heard that very often too. "Then why don't you buy a new one?" At one point I no longer felt like explaining that it was an animal. With its own character, with a soul! And not an object !! Unbelievable that people don't understand that.
With my whole being I wished that I could hold him one more time. Even if it was only for five minutes. I missed him so much. Everything made me think of him...
It was therapeutic for me to write. I had bought a notebook where I told Shredder everything what was on my mind. What I am about to say you can not really find in my book, but I also had a different notebook. In this notebook I wrote what I thought Shredder would like to say to me. In the end this notebook was almost completely full. With `his` thoughts.
I also found comfort in stories of other people whose pets had died. And I was very happy to hear that almost everyone said that sooner or later they felt that their pet was coming to visit them or just being with them. That also confirmed what I felt when I had that dream about Shredder. And also some other things that had happened. I understand that it may sound a bit strange to some people. But I really believe in this. I really think souls stay connected somehow!
There was one other thing that really touched me. I don't remember where I read it, but someone wrote about the Dutch word “overlijden” ("to die"). Litarally it means to be over the suffering. (“over” = over and “lijden”= suffering)
So it simply means to be over the suffering. So being freed from suffering. It was that simple, but I had never looked at it that way.
During that period I have been away from home a lot. At home everything reminded me of him. And that hurt. So that distraction really helped. In May we booked a holiday to Ibiza. The first night there, I dreamed about Shredder again. Also very realistic and it didn't feel like a dream. He was there! That, and the incredibly beautiful island where we were really helped me. Shreddertje was with me. He was even with me in Ibiza! Heartwarming!
From that moment on I started to feel better and I slowly started enjoying things again. But I think it took almost a year in total before I sort of had peace with Shredder’s passing. Maybe it's a little bit my own fault that it took so long. Because, to be honest, holding on to the grief of his loss somehow felt like holding on to him. I'm not sure how to describe it. But this comes close. By now I know you have to let go of that sadness. That doesn't mean I let him go. Not at all. I hold on to all the wonderful memories I have of him, the eternal, unconditional love between us, the gratitude I feel for sharing our lives together and the knowledge that he contributed so greatly towards making me the person that I am today. Therefore, through those things he lives on in me. In my heart.
There was also a moment when I really realized that he would want me to be happy too. Whenever I felt bad he always came to comfort me. He also wanted me to be happy when he was still there. So then he probably wants me to be happy now. I also say that in one of my poems in the book. By grieving you will not get your sweet pet back. And life is too short to be sad for a long time. Rather enjoy your life with your pet in your heart! And of course now and then there are still times when I miss him very much and shed a tear for him. But I can usually think of him with a smile (and also regularly with a loud laugh). My sweet beautiful Shreddebabe !!
To come back to that other notebook that I had. The notebook I had written in his name. I did not read back what I wrote in it. I just kept writing. In October, around my birthday, I had a very difficult time. And then I read everything I had written in that notebook. For the first time since I started. And that was exactly what I needed. Comforting words from Shredder! "
You should know that you are going to have peace with the (physical) loss of your sweet pet. Even if it doesn´t seem that way now because you feel a lot of pain and sorrow. It takes time. A lot of time, sometimes. But really, it will be fine! I know it is almost impossible to accept that he or she is no longer physically here. But trust me, his or her soul is still here. And very much connected to you! Forever!