Please note: the below is in no way intended to address Grief. Capital G Grief is the loss of loved one, nation, freedom, innocence or hope. I haven’t the wisdom or the words on how Grief should be dealt with. Here, I attempt to deal with my sadness at the loss of my dog in the way I deal with most things—by a plethora of words.
This grief doesn’t feel small. It feels as though a wad of steel wool has wrapped around my insides and rubbed it raw. I realize losing my little bundle of mixed breeds-and-affection doesn’t rival heart-wrenching, life-changing losses. If I could just convince my aching innards.
I’ve learned that when I analyze a headache or a stubbed toe or an unreachable itch, dissect it, and examine its texture and consistency and quality, my mind is detracted from the hurt. Maybe it works on heartache.
The loss is still fresh but initial probing led me to a few conclusions:
Our bodies don’t always know the difference between grief and Grief.
The physical manifestation of sadness is not necessarily in proportion to the magnitude of the loss. It just hurts. When I hit my crazy bone or mash a vulnerable toe on a rock, my body screams with more pain than it might in the throes of a deadly stroke. My shrieking nerve endings need my brain to assure them, “It’s just a stubbed toe. Just a whacked elbow. The pain will pass.”
This sadness is physical. It clutches my heart and knots my stomach and gray-washes everything I see. My intellect needs to get involved and reason with the rest of me. I don’t want to stay this sad.
My head knows not to bother telling my heart, “Well, at least it wasn’t my ____(fill in the blank)”
We aren’t given a multiple choice of loss, or the guarantee that if we choose the lesser, the greater won’t happen.
My mind won’t play the “Just think how _____ (fill in the blank) is suffering” game. Someone always, always hurts worse. Based on that reasoning no one should be sad ever.
And my heavy heart would kick my intellect to the curb if it said “Honestly. It was just a dog.”
No. When the steel wool starts to ravel my stomach and heart and shoves the whole mess up in my throat I need to assure myself, “She was a wonderful dog. When you took her home ten years ago you knew this day would come. You weighed the cost and decided the joy was worth the pain. And it won’t always hurt this much.”
Our grief, with just a little cooperation, can be infinitely self-perpetuating.
I’ve gone whole portions of an hour these past days not actively mourning the loss of my little mutt. Then I’ll deliberately pull out a memory—Bonny running, Bonny dozing, Bonny begging us to make the thunder STOP—and everything from gut to throat constricts, except my tear ducts.These aren’t those memories and associations, aromas or songs, that ambush the grieving one. I’m talking about intentionally choosing a mental picture of my dog and keeping the eyes of my heart on it until I’m weeping.
As of this writing it’s been less than 80 hours since we took her for that final trip to the vet. So how do I know the grief has potential to continually feed itself? Experience. I can dig several layers down into my grief vault and pull up tears for Troubles, my beagle who went to her just reward over thirty years ago. It is up to me to decide how often I open that storehouse of pain. Bonny is worth the tears, but neither of us is served by a continual and premeditated sorrowing.
Grief needs to allow room for comforting.
Comfort, we all know, isn’t a cure. It doesn’t reverse time or eradicate the loss, so we may reject the sympathizing word and empathetic touch. But the comfort of kind people does help, if allowed. It’s when grief says, “You don’t understand how much I loved this little pup.” or “Easy for you to say. You aren’t an animal lover.” or, most churlish, “You just don’t feel things as deeply as I do.” —that is when weeping refuses to be consoled. Comfort, in its many manifestations, is the most gentle of buffers, soothing and smoothing the thousand million jagged edges of grief with solace and compassion.
Grief has its reversal in heaven.
Two dogs ago (why do I keep doing this to myself?) when we had to put Polly to sleep, I decided there must be dogs in heaven. Not generic dogs. Not new-creation dogs. But my dog. Polly had to be there. I’m still hoping all dogs, even the yapping, drooling, nasty little ankle-biter around the corner, will be in heaven. But I can’t say for certain. It isn’t something God specifically addresses.
Instead, I know something even better. When I see my Savior face to face, the Word who spoke creation into being, I will see the source of worlds and all beauty and every creature He ever gave life to. The eye that sees the sparrow fall sees the little white dog who became too frail to support life. This is the Almighty we are talking about, who never forgets, never looks at anything without seeing and knowing full well and fully and for always.
The One who designed Bonny’s scruffy, vibrant little frame lives forever and anyone I’ve ever lost lives forever in His love and in His eyes.