I realized last night, lying in bed, that you can love someone AND get attached to him/her, OR you can love someone and not get attached.
And when I use the word "attached" and talk about not getting attached, I don't mean to be detached from the person in the sense that you're not fully present with them, or not showing your love fully. I mean loving them, but not making them your whole world. Loving them, but not feeling the need to control them or have them with you every second of every day.
I thought about this in terms of my animals. Currently I have 3 dogs and 3 cats. And of those six total animals, I definitely feel closest to one. If they all were to pass away (which they will eventually), I'll feel the loss of that one the most. I know this is horrible to say. I love all my pets. I care about them all. I treat them all equally. But I'm more attached to one. I'm not sure why.
I think animals are like people. Some we feel a near-instant connection to, for no apparent reason. It's nothing we can help or control. Maybe it's a past-life thing. Or a soul mate thing. Or just the simple fact of connecting more to one soul than another (whatever species that soul happens to be).
For years I've wondered if something was "wrong" with me because I didn't feel more of an attachment to people. I've had relationships (with family, friends, significant others), and cared about people, and been close to people, but at the same time knew I'd be fine if, for whatever reason, they were no longer in my life one day.
I used to think this made me "emotionally detached." But I don't think that's the case.
Being ok without someone doesn't mean you love them any less. It just means you recognize life goes on. Your life (and theirs) is more than just that one other person.
This is what I believe "loving without attachment" means. It means letting go of the attachment to how you think life should be. Such as, you think you should be with such-and-such person for such-and-such length of time.
My grandma is 98 years old. She's still doing relatively well. She lives at home and gets around with a walker (but doesn't drive anymore). I know one of these days her time will come. (For all I know my "time" may come before hers!) Each time I go to her house (which is at least twice a week), I wonder if this'll be the day.
As I've been "preparing" myself for her inevitable passing, I've questioned if this makes me cold. Maybe it does, but I choose to look at it as I'm not getting attached to how long I think she should live. She will go when her time is up. Just like the rest of us.
I'm not saying my way of living in this world is any better than anyone else's. All I'm saying is it's possible to love without attachment.
To love someone very much, and want the best for them, without attaching to your own beliefs of what that is.