On the morning of New Years Eve, our dog Lucy died. It was not a surprise – she was fifteen and a half and had been very sick for a couple of months. Still, losing her was emotional for our family, each of us expressing grief in a different way.
My 12-year-old son is having a hard time. I remember dealing with death for the first time at about his age. He’s just old enough to really understand the permanence of it. He’ll go a whole day just fine and then break down crying the next. His 6 year-old sister wasn’t bothered by the news at all – which really irks him. How can she not understand?!
All of this is throwing me back to when my father died and the varied ways all his loved ones grieved. It is such an individual process, the way you grieve. My mother gave herself a strict routine and packed her schedule with activities – hiking, dance, university classes. I had a three-week old baby at the time and willingly went into denial for about 6 months just so that I could take care of her and get the sleep I needed. My son, the one who is grieving the loss of his dog now, missed his Pops, but was mostly affected by how emotional I was. At first, he was really scared to see me so upset. Even my father’s dog grieved; his scent was still in the house and she kept waiting for him to come home – even stopped eating for a while.
It is a cliche, but life’s losses are what give it meaning. Our loved ones are all the more dear to us because we know we have a limited time with them. I know that my son will understand this as he gets older and experiences more loss. But for now, it is just a huge, unfair feeling in his gut.
There is a stretch of road on the way to my house that I drive nearly every day. For the past four days, as I’ve headed home, I imagine Lucy racing alongside my car. She loved to run – there is a path worn into our lawn from her high-spirited circuits around the house. Even as an older dog with arthritis, she would outpace younger dogs. Now, she is forever running in my memory, running home.