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Grieving Over My Lost Angel


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I recently joined this very helpful board, and responded to Melissa's post. Then Marty T responded to my post in that thread, and I wanted to reply, but I did not want to do so on Melissa's thread, as she deserves her space. I cannot re-write the story, it will hurt too much. So, although it is a bit out of context, I am pasting my first post, here, along with Marty T's response to me. Then I will "reply" to it here.


Melissa, I'm reading your posts, and crying. My dog was Lila. A few months ago, something bad happened. Someone, or something, took her. We found her out on the highway just before dawn. We took her body home and buried her in the backyard. I carved her name in stone and got a little statue of an angel holding a puppy. I know that Lila is with the angels (and I do not mean that metaphorically) and that she is fine now. But I am not.

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It has been months, but my husband and I still cry sometimes...weep, not sniffles. Our kids have troubles with losing her, and our family therapists says that they won't even hit the hard part, until we adults get a handle on it. The kids want a new dog, and I do too, but I can't consider it because I am too scared. I know that women lose husbands, and marry again, and are happy with that choice, so I ask myself why I can't get another dog.

We got Lila a year before I was in a car accident. She was with me through years of healing. Long days when kids and husband were at school and work, and Lila went with me everywhere. She would go in the car with us, but she didn't like walks, because she wanted to just be at home.

I read a quote last week, that parents of teenagers should have a dog, because then there was always someone who was happy you were home. I laughed. I'm not depressed all the time. And again, I thought about getting another dog. Another little black poodle. It is the only dog I would ever get, just like you got Lola, exactly what you knew you wanted. But it scares me to consider it. Something bad happened to Lila, and there was nothing I could do--with a new dog, I imagine I would always be afraid something bad would happen.

Lila was 8 when she was killed. Not at all old for a miniature poodle, but I know she was getting sick or something, because she was slowing down in significant ways. I try to tell myself that her death was timely, and saved her from living with what would surely have become a low quality of life. But all considered, I have to admit that it is not Lila that I am worried about. It is me. And my family. I've experienced losses in my lifetime (I'm nearly 50), and some have been very hard. But I think losing Lila this way, this is the hardest thing.

After she died, neighbors stopped by to offer their condolences. One even wrote a card. Like Lola, there was just something very special about our dog. Our dogs were our saving angels, and we don't know how to live without them.

I wish I had some kind of special healing advice for you, so you could feel better. All I can offer, is that you are not alone in how much you needed your dog, and how much it hurts that she is gone. They saved us when we needed saving, and then left us on our own. I know I should be glad she was in my life, and move on, but I haven't yet figured out how.



#6 MartyT


Posted 27 November 2012 - 06:48 AM

Melissa and Shoe, my heart hurts for both of you as I read your sad stories about Lola and Lila, and I am so sorry you’re each hurting so badly.

The only way I know to deal with this sort of pain is to let yourselves experience it fully, without trying to suppress it or push it away. Find some ways to express it (including the sharing you are doing here, in this safe place, among fellow animal lovers).

With regard to getting another dog, Shoe, I truly do appreciate your struggle. I will share with you that after my cockapoo Muffin was struck by a car and later euthanized, it took me ten years before I was ready and willing to let another dog into my home and into my heart. Fortunately for me, at the time this happened, my sons were grown and out of the nest, and my husband felt the same way I did about being "dog-less" for that length of time. But everyone is different in this regard, and I think it's important to recognize and allow for those differences, especially within your own family. Is there any room for compromise here? What would happen if you simply accept the fact that you're not ready for another pup without judging yourself for feeling that way, but if your kids feel differently about it, you could agree to let THEM get another dog or puppy -- with the understanding that you are allowed to feel your feelings without judgment, even to the extent that you'll have little or nothing to do with the new pup, if that's how you need to play it? Then see how it goes? Only you know if that approach would work in your family, but it seems to me that if everyone is open and honest with one another in this situation, there ought to be a solution here that would meet everyone's needs, including your own.

For what it's worth, when my Muffin died I was shattered and absolutely heart-broken. I KNEW I could never, ever love another dog the way that I loved him. But after those ten years went by, we did get another dog, a Tibetan terrier named Beringer ~ and I must tell you that both my husband and I loved this dog more than we've ever loved another creature. We had him for fifteen glorious years of unconditional loving, and I could write a book about how much this dog meant to both of us. (See Saying Goodbye to Beringer.)

When you are by nature an animal lover and you lose the animal you love more than anything, I truly do believe that your heart is big enough to accommodate another ~ I have learned that the hard way, through my own experience. Animals like cats and dogs just have a way of wiggling their way into our hearts, probably because they are so innocent, so in the moment, so willing to give us that brand of unconditional love that we will never get from another human being. But I also think you have to be ready, and willing, and open enough to let it happen. Only you will know when it is time ~ and there is nothing wrong with that. I just think that in a family, it's important to make room for the feelings of other members, and we can't expect everyone to feel the same way we do about important matters such as this. That's why I encourage you to consider how you might reach a compromise with your husband and kids about their wanting to get another dog . . .

Meanwhile, I hope that both of you know you are not alone in your sorrow, because here we do understand and honor the magical relationship that exists between animals and their people, and you have our deepest sympathy.

Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC

Bereavement Counselor

Hospice of the Valley

Mail to: tousleym@aol.com

Read Marty Tousley's Bio Here

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Dear Marty,

Thank you for your thoughtful words of support.

Regarding getting a new dog...it is not that I wouldn't love another dog as much, though it is hard to imagine another dog becoming as attached to me as Lila was. I know that attachment was not common, because people commented about it often.

My biggest fear/anxiety in getting another dog, is that I would worry like crazy, all the time, that something bad could happen to her. I'm really having trouble writing about this...tearing up as I write. In a few weeks it will be exactly a year since we lost our angel, Lila.

Even if my boys could take care of a dog on their own, that dog would still become part of my family, and in a couple years when they've gone off to college, it would become mine, anyway. And I'm afraid I'd be worried for this dog, all the time.

I took Lila with me nearly everywhere, but sometimes you just cannot take a dog with you. I felt bad when I left Lila at home alone, but I didn't worry about her. Now, I feel like I would be anxious all the time, if I got another dog.

What I tell myself, is that I'll get another one if I get old and house-bound. As I am not yet fifty, this could be quite a while.


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I understand what you're saying, Shoe, and only you can decide how much, if any, anxiety you're willing and able to tolerate. Of course you would be worried if you took another dog into your home and heart ~ that is what we animal lovers do ~ We can be sitting in a movie theater during a rain storm and when we hear thunder outside, we worry about our dogs at home ~ If we're away from home too long we worry that our dogs are missing us and need to go outside ~ and on and on it goes. But that is also the price we pay for loving our animals so much. And I suppose that one sure way you can protect yourself against that sort of anxiety is to vow "never again" ~ but it seems to me that it is a very heavy price to pay, and I'm not sure it would solve the problem anyway. You see, when we lose someone we love as much as you love your Lila, we become acutely aware of how little control we really do have over whatever can happen to us or to our loved ones ~ It makes us feel very, very anxious and vulnerable ~ and it follows that the most logical way to avoid feeling that way ever again is to avoid ever becoming that attached again. But the sad truth is that we do not live in a risk-free universe. Things happen. Life is not fair. Our loved ones can get hurt, get sick or die. But knowing that, we humans still are driven to fall in love and bring partners, children, close friends and even beloved animals into our lives. Surely you worry about your children, too, but having them is worth the risk, no? I don't know how we can protect ourselves from worrying about the ones we love. It's not much different from protecting ourselves from loving them. And as you have learned, grief is the price we pay for love. And only you can decide if all the unconditional love a dog brings into your heart is worth the price you're willing to pay for it.

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I'm sorry you lost your Lila, and believe me, I do understand the closeness, it is what I have with my Arlie right now.

You say you would be worried about something bad happening if you got another dog. I am not trying to convince you to get one, like Marty says, you will know if/when the time is right, and like I told another poster, different people choose to handle it differently. But something bad can happen at any time to anyone, to yourself, your kids, your husband, bad things can and do happen. It is not the bad things happening that cripple us in life, but rather the FEAR of bad things happening...fear robs us of enjoying what IS, in this very moment. If your fear persists, I would encourage you to seek help in examining your fear and facing it. Fear is a robber. I have faced loss of husband, loss of job, loss of pets, and many many other losses in the last few years...I recently went through job cutbacks, from full time to one day a week...I'm single and self-supporting, and at age 60 it is a scary time. One of the things I've learned in going through this is to trust that things will work out. They may not work out like I think or plan or hope, but they will work out and all of my worrying won't alter anything. Better to sleep well at night and deal with what is and to enjoy the beauty of today than to let the "what ifs" rob me of even that! Today I get to see deer and elk in my own back yard. Today I enjoy my dog and two cats by my side. Today I have a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator. I don't know what tomorrow brings, and I do my best to plan for it and try to make wise decisions, but beyond that I can't control everything and must deal with tomorrow...tomorrow. My mom has Lewy Bodies Dementia and is in a dementia care facility. As she lost her home and everything familiar to her and is losing her brain, she is aware of everything slipping away...how frightening that must be for her, yet she knows it's all in God's hands and trusts Him with her today and tomorrow. It is so reassuring to me that with all that is going on in her life, she does have that faith that will carry her. That doesn't mean she doesn't get panicked at times, she does. She calls me and we go through the same things over and over and over. And I try to have patience with her and compassion because I know she can't help it, she's trying to make sense of things that seem nonsensical to her. But all of this is part of life and it's cycles. You might wonder what this has to do with losing your dog...it does because loss is loss and whether it's the loss of one's home or brain or husband or job or dog, it takes so much effort to grieve and adjust and to open your heart and life back up to living and enjoying what is.

Your memorial statue is beautiful! My heart goes with you today and I am so sorry for the grief you are feeling.

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