a dog after a loss

My husband passed away in 2012 right between Christmas and New Year. I was left with our 2-year-old son, our 2 dogs, a mortgage, bills to pay and $200.00 in the bank. My mind went into what was I going to do now, I had no job, I had just graduated from nursing school, what was I going to do? My neighbors came over right after it happened, my parents arrived the next day, but it doesn’t matter how many people call or come and go, at the end of it all, it’s just you. I was a widow now. My world just crumbled down, how was I going to handle all of it, what was I going to do? Well here’s what I did.

I chose to take one day at a time, and to keep my kid and dogs safe from all of it. I wasn’t sure how, but God would help me, I knew that. I was not going to let any of this affect my kid’s happiness though. I didn’t want the dark cloud of my grief to cast over his sunshine. My dogs knew something was terribly wrong, they wouldn’t leave my side no matter what. My mom stayed over for about a month so I could take care of everything that comes when your loved one died. It was quite a stressful time, eventually I got a job, the house got sold, we moved to a smaller house. God took care of us, we kept moving forward one day at a time and here we are.  It wasn’t easy, but we’ve made it work.

I dealt with grief the only way I could, just by keep going. I didn’t have time to curl up and cry, didn’t have a month to grieve, it wasn’t an option for me. I had to go to work, I had to take care of my kid, and my dogs needed me to take care of them to feed them, to let them in and out to go potty. Our lives thrived and functioned so well on routines and structure. Sam and I left the house early in the morning and came back home in the evening. Since the dogs stayed outside, I had a covered area for my babies in the backyard, with a fan during the warm months, and a heater during the colder months. Nike wasn’t thrilled, but Zoe seemed to be alright. The dogs kept us busy, they gave us love and we loved them back.

While working as a registered nurse in a hospital, I took care of two patients who processed their widowhood quite differently. So one of the widows was a happy person. She had found a group of widows and widowers, they would go on trips together, they had movie nights and bowling nights, they had all kinds of activities going on, she invited me to attend one of those nights. To her, being part of this group meant having people around who had gone through the same grief. They helped and looked after each other.

However, my other patient was the total opposite. You’d think the woman was homeless because of how she had let go of herself, she was curled up on the bed most of the time and she barely talked. Came to find out she had 2 grown sons, one was a lawyer and the other was a school principal. Her husband had passed away the year prior, and her life just went downhill. Maybe her sons had their own lives and she found herself all alone in the house she shared with the love of her life, and went down into this depression hole. I wonder what would’ve happened to her if she had a dog.

The way I see it, what kept me going was that I had others depending on me, what kept my first patient going was that she was able to find people who were in her same boat, but my second patient isolated because probably she didn’t have someone who needed her, or anyone who depended on her. We all come with an expiration date, we just don’t know that date or time, only God knows it. My husband died, but I didn’t, my kid didn’t, my dogs didn’t. I had to keep going for myself and my kid and my dogs. The one lady chose to continue, the other lady didn’t. I wanted to give this lady a dog. There are so many dogs waiting to get an owner, this lady would’ve gotten one of those and she would’ve had to come out of her grief to care for the dog.

If you lost a loved one, get a dog if you don’t already have one. In time, you’ll be in a better place, God has a plan for you, there is a reason why you’re still here. Just get a dog, trust me. Dogs give you love and kisses, they have a way to pull you out from your grieving, because they need to go potty, they need to eat, they need to play, they need to go for a walk, and guess what? You need that too. You’re not lonely anymore, dogs are great companions, they take that anxiety and the depression out of the picture because their tails are just wagging with so much happiness when you come home or just because they’re so sure you’ll give them the food you’re about to eat! Your health will improve, your mood will be a lot better, your attention will be diverted from your current situation to your new four-legged friend, you will have a companion, someone to watch TV with, someone who waits for you, someone to come home to.

If you just lost your loved one, get a dog. If you know someone who lost a loved one, get them a dog. I’m not sure if the same applies with a cat, maybe you’re a cat person, but cats like to get into boxes, which is not what we want, right? A dog will get you outside the box, outside your grief and back into the life God wants you to have.

God bless!!

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