When grief gets messy

IMG_1603The unexpected loss of our dog a few months ago has been a complicated one, a death infinitely harder to process than that of the many other pets we’ve said goodbye to. Though I have loved all our dogs, I am not really even a “dog person”, yet almost 4 months later, I am still welling up with tears when I think of Sadie, or when another dog with the same sweet Labradoodle face walks by. Her loss has triggered pent-up grief.

Sometimes, I’ve found, grief gets messy, and one day when you think you’re crying about your dog, you realize that all the losses in your life are bubbling up together into one rushing flow of grief.  There is so much to mourn in this brutal, beautiful world: suicide, child abuse, bigotry, violence. Each of these injuries leads to trauma that prints and duplicates itself on spirit, flesh, and blood, and thus lives on even after the traumatic event has passed.

I’m mourning our dog still, but to be honest and honor my own grief process, I am mourning other losses, both personal and corporate: dreams I’ve carried close that haven’t come true, hard changes in our family and schooling, physical and emotional injuries sustained, the chronic pain of perceived failure. And so I write it out, hoping that giving grief its outlet will allow it to empty out, and in doing so free up some much-needed psychic space.

Our dog Sadie had the gift that each comes naturally to every animal: she inhabited her life fully. May we all do the same.


Losing Sadie

The night you were hit, we wept

over your soft, warm body, we buried our faces

in your fur, whispered words of love

and I’m sorry.

In the months since you have been gone,

I wake up early, thinking of you,

knowing you are waiting to go

outside, and breathe morning air.

Every evening at 5, my

inner alarm rings for your dinner.

I crack eggs, pop popcorn,

and see your ghost under

my feet, waiting for the dropped scrap.

At night your shadow

curls up at the corner

of the couch,

or at my knee,

wet snout nudging, insisting


Now I listen for

your toenails clacking

on the kitchen floor

on the way to

your empty bed.

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