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Grief is a funny thing. It hits each person differently. We may have shared experiences, but that doesn’t mean we all process it in the same way.
My husband and I had a wonderful little Rottweiler pup in 2015-2016 named Lavender (Lavi for short). We took her to training classes for over a year. She was a Certified Canine Good Citizen. She interacted with other dogs well, adored children and loved to be spoiled by us.
We lost her after a road trip to Kansas where she had picked up fleas and we flea-dipped her twice. Prior to the road trip, we had switched her food from a chicken-based to a salmon-based diet. All of the stress from switching food (fatty food is hard on dogs, we would later be told) to the chemical stress of the flea dips and the emotional stress of the road trip put her system into a tailspin.
She ended up developing Pancreatitis, which can be fatal depending on the severity. After a week of being unable to keep down food or water and a 10+lb loss, her kidneys gave out and she died in her sleep, alone, in a cage that was not home. She was a year and three months. She was stolen away from us too soon.
Coping with loss
I honestly thought she would recover and I was not prepared for it. I remember I worked the entire week she was at the vet’s and I’d swing by to see her afterwards. My husband would go by during the day to try to coax food into her.
When she passed away I recall taking on a Dana Scully mindset of “must work, must stay focused” to help me cope. My husband turned inward, giving his body more sleep than normal and retreating into himself. I recall making him talk to his mom on the phone for some semblance of human connection (we lived much farther from family than we do now).
Honoring who we lost
We’ve struggled since to find a way to keep her memory alive. Originally, we had intended to load a digital frame with pictures of her and I have a few odds and ends from her time with us that I’ve kept, but they ended up in the back of my china hutch, hidden away. I finally found a solution while perusing the aisles of Target over Black Friday – a shadow box just big enough for the few things we have to remember her by, and a few pictures.
It feels better to have something out where we can see her every day. Of course, not every piece of grief feels the same way. Some people feel better without something so powerful confronting them daily, and that’s fine. However, if you find that displaying something helps – then do it!
I’m hoping that at some point I start to smile instead of tear up every time I see her picture, but what I think what is important right now is the fact that I am not hiding from those feelings. I’m embracing them.
How do you deal with loss in your life? How do you honor those who are no longer with you?