No “Sowing Seeds” devotion received more attention than the one about Honey, our nine-year old Cocker Spaniel dying of an incurable heart condition. People would stop me in the street and ask about her. Some would share their own stories of beloved pets and offer heart-felt prayers.
For four months, we fought to keep Honey alive. There were four daily prescriptions: three for her heart and one for her breathing passages. She needed constant care, but Honey never suffered and even seemed to enjoy the extra attention. A few days before Christmas we took pictures of Honey freshly cleaned and clipped with green and red Christmas bows in her ears.
On New Year’s Eve, Honey began to noticeably weaken despite all of our efforts and sleepless nights caring for her. Dr. Eliasson who had spent a few late night hours with her also finally had to admit there was nothing more to be done and tearfully administered the final shot. Mell and I took Honey home and buried her beside a recently planted tree behind our house.
“Why am I telling you this?”
Because death is something everyone must experience as a part of life. We are all going to lose relatives, spouses, close friends and beloved pets. For our family, Honey’s death was nearly as tragic as losing one of our children. The question is: “how do we manage the grief that comes when we lose a loved one?”
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying” mentions six stages of recovery from grief.
- · Denial: “Just because Honey died, nothing has really changed.” Grief is very real and must not be denied. It is okay to feel sorrow for the loss of a loved one.
· Anger: “Why did Honey have to leave me? God, why did you let this happen?” It is only natural to look for someone to blame. It could be the one who died or God or even yourself.
· Bargaining: “I’ll serve you forever, if you’ll bring Honey back, Lord!” What has happened to you is beginning to sink in and you are at this point looking for any way to avoid it.
· Depression: “If I can’t even be with my dog, why am I struggling so hard? I’ll just stay home and watch TV.” The reality of the loss is beginning to sink in, but at this point there seems to be no light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.
· Acceptance: “Honey is gone and I miss her terribly, but I must live.” Much of the anger and depression is now gone as you begin to learn new coping skills.
· Hope: “Honey is gone, but God still loves me and I will cherish the memories.” Hope is when you regain your interest in life and are able to look ahead once again.
Jesus said to the disciples, just before his death: “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” God never promised us a world free of pain and misery. God says, “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” There is a higher power who will see us through. Count on it!
Some do’s and don’ts:
- Don’t make any quick major decisions. The temptation is strong to rush out and buy another dog or begin dating again or change jobs or sell your house. Just remember this: DON’T!
- Do pray the serenity prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. God grant me the courage to change the things I can. God grant me the wisdom to know the difference.” DO PRAY FOR SERENITY!
Honey is buried by a freshly planted tree, just behind our house. Our family can go out there from time to time and talk about the memories and even laugh about the crazy dog who seemed to fit right in with our wacky household. If you have lost someone recently, my prayer is that this will help you cope with the present and give you hope for the future. May God be with you.
Questions to Challenge:
1. Who have you lost to death recently?
2. What have you done to help the family cope with the grief? What have you done to help yourself?
3. Has your relationship with God grown stronger or weaker? Pray the serenity prayer this week.