Friday afternoon we laid our 11 1/2 year old Golden Retriever to rest. My husband stayed home with the kids while I made the drive with Big Red to the vet. As the medicine took hold I had enough time to tell him how much we loved him, and thanked him for being so good with the kids before he slipped away. The hole that he has left is more than I could have imagined.
The vet told me on Friday that kids can teach us alot about grief. I wanted to share here how each of my kids are handling the loss of Clifford.
My eldest will be 8 in May and only knows a world with Clifford in it. Thursday night as we started our goodbyes, and into Friday there were constant tears. Near sobbing and hard to breathe. She grieved outwardly and we gave her space to cry as much as she needed to. By last night she said to me "Mom, I'm not crying anymore. It's alot easier". She mentions how it is strange to not see him in the kitchen, or play with him outside, but her grief was hard but quick. My Mom texted me that you should walk through grief, not around it. It seems my eldest did this the best. She walked right through it, allowing herself to fully grieve the loss, and came out the other side. Missing him but being ok.
My middle has been very quiet with the loss. No tears have been shed, but he has been quicker to get upset. He would bring me his favorite stuffed animal to offer me comfort. I thought maybe, being 5, that it hadn't affected him the same way. On Saturday he and I were out and about and I was talking with my older brother on the phone. From the back seat he said "Mom, can you stop talking about Clifford. Seeing you hurt, makes my heart hurt". He misses Red, but his struggle was seeing the rest of us so hurt. I was surprised when people would ask me if we had told the kids. I, like my eldest, am open with my grief, and we were open with the kids on preparing them to say goodbye, what would happen, and being honest with our emotions afterwards. But I'm being careful now to guard myself a bit around my middle.
My littlest. Wow my littlest. She will be 2.5 this week and she surprised me the most. She loved feeding Cliff treats, and loved getting down on the floor with him, nose to nose while he ate or drank water. I think his tongue fascinated her. When I walked in the door Friday evening she looked at me and said "where's Clifford". I got down on my knees, told her Clifford was sick and we needed to put him to sleep. She looked at me and said "I give you big hug. It's not your fault" and wrapped her little arms around my neck. She hasn't asked about him since. A few times when she's seen me upset she will say to me "It's ok, it's ok". I heard her quietly say last night after she asked me if I missed Cliff "he's not sick anymore". Wise loving 2 year old.
As for me, the shock of not seeing him is lessening, and the loss comes in waves that sometimes takes me by surprise. I'm taking my Moms advice and allowing myself to walk through the grief rather than around it. When the loss suddenly hits like yesterday while sitting in the grocery store parking lot, I allow myself to cry.
Red was a good friend. He was always gentle, always loving, always wanting to play. He is being greatly missed.