What I mostly replay in my mind about Kody’s last days are moments in which I had no control; no relief, no fixing, no changing the situation. When I held Kody the last moments of her life, I could only tell her what I had told her all her life; that she was the most beautiful Sheltie in the world. I replay the morning in the vet’s office, when the doctor held the stethoscope over Kody’s heart and told me her heart had stopped. I replied with a question, “She’s gone?” If you have been through this, you know that this question isn’t answered with a yes or no. It is answered through learning how to live again after Kody; or life after your loved one. Losing Kody was one of the worst days of my life. And I needed to figure out how to live from that day on. It’s puzzling to me that acceptance is the 5th stage of the grieving process. Shouldn’t the real word be tolerate rather than acceptance? Still, it is a mystery how grief allows just enough strength to follow a routine. I don’t know why we say strength, when it feels anything but – perhaps for lack of a better word. For me, I spent most of my strength intending to snap out of it when I was daydreaming too often about Kody. I look for signs of Kody in the sky; a cloud shaped in her image, a formation that looks like her tail, her ears, the way she sat, the way she played, the way she ran. I am the most alert for Kody’s presence when sitting on the patio. I watch for any sudden movement in the yard, or change in the wind’s strength. I listen to the birds. Nothing tells me that Kody is near, except my belief that she is here…in spirit. Last night I sat on a bench in the weight room and remembered how Kody would lick my left knee while I was lifting weights. When I looked at her, she seemed to ask, “What are you doing that for? Wouldn’t it be more fun to play tug of war with me… with your socks?” But I sat on the bench waiting for some kind of feeling from her; a lick on the left knee, the sound of her bark, the feel of her paw, pawing me, her playful presence in the room. I’m convinced there are many people out there who are going through and have gone through the painful loss of a beloved pet. So, a friend of mine from Seminary, also named Kristi, and I, have started a grief support group Breathing Space in honor of the pets we have loved and lost in our lives. After enduring the miserable stages of grief, we want to listen and support others who suffer the same devastating loss – the death of a beloved pet. Grieving the loss of a pet is just as painful as grieving the loss of a close human family member or friend. The stages of grief do not always occur in the order we learned in Social Awareness Class. And the stages of grief repeat way more often than we’d like. There is no timeframe for enduring the painful absence of one who was so intricately woven into our lives. Breathing Space meets every 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month at the Downtown Library, Sioux Falls, at 2:00 p.m. Everyone is welcome. We acknowledge one another’s journey through grief. We create a space where we can breathe, mourn, share memories, pictures and stories. You can contact Breathing Space at 605-999-9361 for more info.