I take care of animals in a specialty animal hospital. There is more collective education in specialty clinics, and we can often treat conditions that used to be death sentences. It’s amazing what we can do, but in reality, we see the sickest of the sick animals. Unfortunately this means I am around a lot of death. There is also a lot of life-saving, healing, and tears of joy, but some days the deaths are what leave the lasting impressions. Today was a difficult day.
I lost three patients today. As rule, I try not to get attached to any of my patients, but with as much time and care I put into my job, saying goodbye always hits me hard. Not just because we were not able to fix them, but because I am present for the very worst day of someone’s life. Today I stood nearby while families wailed as their beloved pets passed away. Have you ever heard someone wail in grief? It is a sound that cuts right to the middle of you.
I don’t know what to do with the feeling I get from sending people out the door to deal with the worst day of their lives as I move right on with my day. I shed a few tears with a bereaved owner, then I turn the corner and make an unrelated poop joke with a coworker just moments later. I know I can’t carry other people’s pain. I know it’s not my fault that their family member has died. Grief is a pain so deep that it’s impenetrable, and losing a pet is a unique kind of pain. There is nothing I can do to make it better.
All I can do is be a vague memory of consolation in that moment and find peace knowing that someone cared about that pet at the end of its life. Like the animals that taught me this lesson, all I can do is keep living in the moment.