As a new parent, people give you advice on many things including breastfeeding, sleeping habits and the latest, greatest gadgets. All of this information is great, but what I realized is that no one talks about how to deal with loss. There is the simple type of loss, dealing with sleep, independence and even hair. Then there is the loss that occurs when a pregnancy is cut short and the baby never makes it to your arms. However, this week we experienced a different kind of loss that I really wasn’t prepared for, the loss of our pet.
After just one year of marriage, we decided to add to our family. A sweet baby girl graced our presence and filled a void we didn’t realize existed. We practiced our parenting on her, working on our patience and adjusting to the lack of sleep created by all night potty runs. We discovered consistency was critical and follow through was imperative.
When our sweet girl was just a year we decided we were ready to expand our family and add a little human to our family. Life had different plans for us and over the next 3 years, our sweet girl would be the only one that gave us the title of parents and calmed our minds as we battled infertility.
Fast forward and our sweet girl was almost 12. She had welcomed home three tiny humans, offering protection over each one and tolerating them as they learned to crawl and walk, often using her for balance. She rested her head gently on my leg while I silently sobbed after the loss of our baby. She never failed to let us know that the mailman, UPS truck or Magazine Salesperson was in the neighborhood. As her body started to fail her, we realized that not only would we be left to mourn our loss, but we would have to share this journey with our kids. We struggled with how to tell them, what to do and how much detail to give. While I understand that everyone grieves differently, here is how we honored our first baby.
Honesty is key:
We told that kids that she was sick, that tumors had taken over her body and that sometimes doctors can’t heal them even when we wish they could. We were able to talk about cancer not being contagious and explaining that there is nothing we could have done to prevent it.
Involve the kids:
The kids made cards for her on her last day and sat on the floor reading them to her and giving her kisses. It was a sweet moment where they were able to share their thoughts, wishes and prayers for her.
We spent her last day doing what she loved most, eating and visiting family. We bought her donuts for breakfast and took her to dairy queen for ice cream. We visited family to let them say good bye and then finished it off with a whopper and fries. It was silly, but it made us giggle watching her get ice cream on her nose and realizing what an exciting day it must have been for her.
Let them see you cry:
I realized this was one of the first times my kids have really seen me cry. Sure I’ve teared up during a movie, but most of the time I am wanting to be strong for them. However, during this time I realized one of the greatest gifts I can give them is being real and authentic. I cried, they cried, we cried together. It gave us time to talk about sadness and healing.
Read a book:
A coworker gave us the book, Dog Heaven. It was such a sweet gift that helped us explain to the kids where their sweet friend had gone. It helped us picture her running free, eating snacks and watching over us.
Savor the Moment:
When we realized our time was limited, we decided to capture the moment in professional pictures. It was worth every penny as I can look at these pictures and see the pure joy our family experienced with her.
Saying goodbye is always hard and loss is many times unexpected. I am thankful for the 12 years our sweet girl walked us through the trials of life. I believe there are times that she saved our marriage and gave us purpose. She reminded us to laugh and that life shouldn’t always be so serious. She snuggled each one of our babies and loved them unconditionally. She was more than a pet, she was a part of our family that will forever be missed.