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How Chronic Illness Helped Me Grieve the Loss of My Pet

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On May 31st, with the help of a home-visit veterinarian service, my best friend and sole companion of nearly 14 years passed away. She was a retriever mix named Amica.

I’m still grieving.

I know I will continue to grieve, but thanks to my chronic health conditions (fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome), I’m figuring out how to do it.

At first, I was lost and confused on my road of grief, but then it started to do things that reminded me so much of my chronic illness, and I realized I could experience and manage it in the same way I live with chronic health issues.

1. Severity varies

Some days are better than others. Some moments are better than others. Improvement isn’t guaranteed and certainly isn’t linear.

2. Know the triggers

Certain things make the grief worse. Some of these triggers I can avoid, and some I have no control over. For the ones I can’t control but that I can see coming, like her birthday, I can make a plan to get through them.

3. Expect surprises

I have to understand that sometimes the pain will just show up out of nowhere.

4. Allow the pain

Trying to ignore pain or force it to go away just piles on more misery and can even make the pain itself worse. I know to just let it happen and give it space to play out.

5. Remember the cycle

This has always been at the top of my coping mechanisms. When the bad gets bad, I make sure to remind myself and hold close the knowledge that it is a cycle and the better days always come back around.

6. Do it my way

I have learned to not live my pain in a way that makes it more comfortable for other people. I have in the past cut people out of my life who pressured me to hide my pain. I’m living through my grief the same way, doing it on my terms and not trying to “pass” for anyone. It’s mine, not theirs, and I have the right.

7. Replace lost activities

For everything I used to do with and/or because of my companion, I can find new things to do or new ways to do old things, just as I have done with activities my disabilities affected or stole.

8. It’s forever part of me

I’m still me, as I’ll always be me no matter what, however the loss of my closest companion has reshaped my identity somewhat, and it’ll always be part of who I am.

See some of Amica’s adventures at

Christina Irene is a professional speaker who has presented on invisible disabilities to educational institutions, not-for-profit organizations, government entities, community groups, and corporations around the world. Inspired by her own chronic conditions, she created the Splat system for talking about and managing disability and published two books on it — “TalkingSplat: Communicating About Our Hidden Disabilities” and “Splatvocate: Supporting People With Hidden Disabilities.” Besides writing nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, her passion is adventure; she’s traveled to all 50 states, dozens of national parks, and 20 countries. She lives in central Pennsylvania where she serves elected and appointed roles on local community boards. Check out her resources and tools at

Originally published: July 3, 2022
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