What to do When Grief Strikes

It was 2006 at Easter Brunch out in the Texas Hill Country. Carol, a mom of my son’s classmate was grumbling about her dog, a young, yellow lab named Henry. They really loved him, but were very concerned that they’d have to give him away due to his escape artistry. “He jumps the fence all the time and we worry,” she said.

At the time, we lived on 60 acres, plenty of room for a rambunctious  canine. We had eight-foot deer fence around the property that would present a formidable climb for the most adept jumper. And, it was a sad time for our family. Cancer had struck with its gnarly hand and the children’s dad, very ill, was close to leaving us. I thought to myself, “This dog might be a good companion for my son, Sam, during this difficult time.

We stopped by Carol’s house on our way home and picked up Henry to join our family. He was boisterous and very social. Finding means of escape despite the fence, he loved riding in the car and chasing tennis balls. Each evening he’d plod down the hallway and push open the door to Sam’s bedroom where he climbed into bed with a small boy and cuddled the night away.

Sam is now a young man, off at college, but he came home to say goodbye to his old canine companion who shared more than half his lifetime. And, while there is no doubt he was Sam’s dog, he was a loving buddy to all of us.

Grief strikes hard and deep, this goodbye. All the small (and big) ways he was a part of our family. I still look to the front porch to see if he’s sitting and watching. My steps are different now that I don’t have to navigate around Henry who would plop down heavily with a grunt in the kitchen right under my feet. His soft snores and heavy breathing are gone and the silence bears witness to his absence.

While this loss is a big one for our family, I cannot imagine the grief of those who have lost not only their pets, but their homes, their possessions, their friends and family members. I look at Henry’s dog bowl and recall how much he loved to eat and I miss him all over again. But, many do not have even the smallest icons of remembrance; those symbols that bear witness to where we have been and who we have loved swept away by flood, fire and immigration agents.

How do we bear the burden of loss and its attendant, grief? Tears flow from tender hearts. Rubble is sifted. Memories are precious. After the shock, we do what we know. There are the four bakers stranded in their shop during hurricane Harvey who turned 4400 pounds of flour into bread for those with no food. The grocer who turned supply chain upside down to provide fresh water and open aisles for survivors; he too, did what he knew. The people who hauled their boats into flooded streets providing transport to hospitals, pharmacies and simply to dry ground did what they knew. The human spirit is resilient and yet, the tears spill. Let them flow as we go about doing what it is we know.

Posted in acceptance, anxiety, change, coping with change, family relationships, flexibility, inspiration on 09/19/2017 05:50 am

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