Tragedy and Transition: Grieving as a New Person

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I lost my darling husky, Rosa, on January 7th. We had eight amazing, frustrating, beautiful years together with my other husky, Misha. The decision to let her rest was the hardest choice I’ve ever made in my life. She was my family. Since then, I’ve grieved her and tried to get my life in order. Misha and I are going to be ok together, we’ll adjust and we’ll go on. But I’ve had this thought repeatedly about just how different this experience has been because I transitioned — or more specifically how it’s been better for it. 

Even just two years ago, I was a different person in so many ways. So much of my emotional energy was drained out by living as someone I wasn’t and by all the horrible thoughts and feelings that come with that. Before, I don’t know how I’d have gotten through this. I probably would have, somehow, but this year the story is so different than how it could have been. Instead of feeling alone and hurt, I’m able to grieve with the support of my friends, family, and partners. It’s not that my being transgender made this easier, it’s that as part of my transition I’ve learned skills, dropped old habits, and grown as a person in ways that helped me when I needed the most support. 

Growing up as a closeted trans person, emotions were difficult to master for me. So I contained them. I was very skilled at keeping them under lock and key, which protected me from them, but the same padlocks and iron bars that kept them in kept other people out. Over the last year of my transition I’ve been learning to express those emotions and let people see them, and me, in a truer form. When Rosa started to show signs that she was failing, I needed everything I’d learned to genuinely express my heartache at watching my friend and my family member suffer so — and at my fear that I was about to lose her. 

And when I expressed those emotions, I wasn’t doing that to a handful of people I’d kept at arm’s length. I was sharing those hurts and fears to people with whom people I’d grown beautiful and wholesome relationships. And there were so many more of them than I could ever have fathomed — from local friendships I’d made, to people giving me genuine love and support from Michigan, Idaho, and even India. And when I didn’t have enough money to pay to get Rosa’s ashes back, those people that I’ve grown to love and who have shown me love in return stepped in and overwhelmed the vet’s office with offers to pay. When I went to the vet with Rosa on the 7th, they told me about the calls they’d received and remarked about how many wonderful friends I have. And I know I do.

And the habits I’ve built to care for my trans body have helped me stay OK. Grief and depression often bring with them with poor self care and eating behaviors. I have continued to eat right because I learned to eat better as part of my transition. I have continued to care for my body because of the routines I’ve built for skin care, bathing, and health. And my friends have checked in on me literally every day since then. When I didn’t have the wherewithal to cook for myself, my partner brought food or we went out together.

This hasn’t been a fairy tale. It hasn’t been good or pleasant, but in this tragedy and loss I see how far I’ve come and how much love I have in my life. I transitioned to find comfort in my body and in the eyes of other people — but in this I discovered that transition hasn’t just changed me, it’s changed my whole world. 

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