Good-bye to little Lizzie

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In November I wrote about Lizzie, the fantastic, little Shih Tzu dog. She lived life to the fullest, trusting those who owned and cared for her. Even though her eyesight was challenged, she walked ahead in faith showing joy and contentment in her circumstances – living in a small, love-filled, New York apartment with my son and daughter-in-law.

Two days ago, little Lizzie closed her eyes for the last time. She got really sick and the doctors just couldn’t help her overcome the illness this time. When my son called me Monday morning, sobbing, my heart broke. Both he and his wife loved that little dog. The short time I had with her last year endeared her to me as well. She was good-natured, loving, gentle, and smart.

My son made the comment that it was the small stuff that hurt the worst. He compared missing and saying good-bye to little Lizzie to the grief of losing his dad four years ago. Not being able to pick up the phone and call his dad on the walk home from the subway had hurt deeply. Realizing that there would be no more such conversations would strike him each day as he followed through with his routine. The everyday tasks tend to remind you of your loss at the most unexpected times.

Now as he faces coming home without having Lizzie greet him at the door, he realizes that the little things count. I hear him grieve as he won’t be able to take Lizzie out for her bedtime walk. Sitting and watching TV or working on his computer won’t be interrupted by her little snores as she sleeps nearby.

Facing grief, we prepare for the big things. We expect the special holidays, the birthdays, or anniversaries to be difficult. However, how do you plan for missing someone you love every time you open a door or get ready for bed? How do you guard your heart and mind against the small, frequent moments that occur daily? When will it feel “normal” again to awaken to each new day without the one you have lost?

Saying good-bye to little Lizzie can serve as a reminder that we hurt much because we love much. So embrace the memories you hold. Be glad for the time you had together. Trust that you will make it through the hard times of pain and sadness as you journey through your grief. Strive to lean upon those who are close to you, seeking their support and encouragement. Let others help you as you learn to live after saying good-bye.

Until next time –

Karen

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Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

The Dog Park

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Today, my brother, nieces, and I took little Benny, the cocker spaniel, to the dog park. The weather today was beautiful, sunny, and warm. It was obvious that many other dog owners had the same idea, taking advantage of the day, for it was quite a popular and crowded place.

As Benny ran about excitedly exploring and investigating the park along with the other canines, I found it intriguing to see how the dog owners interacted. There seemed to be some regulars who frequented the park and easily conversed with one another. A couple of people even brought lawn chairs, making themselves comfortable while their pets played.

Others, like me, stood still at first taking it all in. There were some rather large dogs racing back and forth, frolicking with each other, oblivious to anything other than the fun to be had. Those pups played with wonderful abandon, totally carefree, and without a worry. The dogs also showed me two points I took home from the dog park today.

Enjoy and live in the moment – As we walk through grief, it can be difficult to allow ourselves pleasure and the freedom to “run and play.” However, I believe we can learn from the dogs I watched today. They didn’t worry about anything but playing in the sun with their new friends. It didn’t matter that the fun wouldn’t last long or that they would encounter the occasional dog that barked and played a bit roughly. They lived in the moment.

Branch out to meet others – Those of us walking the journey of grief can also benefit by reaching outside of ourselves and meeting new people. Not everyone we come in contact will be our new best friend or even someone whom we want to know better. Still, it is good for us to practice social skills and talk to others if only to forget our own sorrows for just a bit. The art of conversation gets a bit rusty if we allow ourselves to stay isolated for too long.

Little Benny enjoyed his day at the park, as did the four of us who took him. A little fresh air, exercise and socializing is beneficial to everyone – canines as well as humans. I do not have a dog, but I can take these same  concepts and apply them to my life at home. Here’s to meeting new friends and enjoying the journey along the way.

Until next time –

Karen

Like Lizzie

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This picture is of Lizzie, my daughter-in-law’s dog. She’s a cute, 11-year old Shih Tzu that made the big move from Audra’s childhood home in Texas to Astoria, NY this year to be reunited with Audra. Austin, my son, has raved about her since day one, so excited for us to finally meet. Once I spent some time with this cutie, I understood. There is no dog like Lizzie.

Being an older canine, she has a few challenges. She is nearly blind now, and is unable to walk down the flight of stairs at the apartment so she needs to be carried in order to go on her walks. She also snores quite loudly.

Yet, there are so many things Lizzie can do! She can walk up the stairs just fine. Her awesome nose allows her to find her food and treats with little trouble. Even though she snores, it appears that she actually breathes just fine and gets plenty of rest. Last, but certainly not least, a dog like Lizzie gives immeasurable joy.

Whenever we returned to the apartment after being out, whether it was for a short jaunt to the store or a daylong adventure in the city, Lizzie welcomed us and let us know she was quite pleased to see us again. One of her favorite things to do was to lie in your arms, belly up, and let you rub her tummy and stroke under her chin as she made little noises of pleasure. I never failed to smile at how relaxed she was while placing herself in our arms.

Living life with Lizzie, I can see some valuable parallels to walking life with grief. First and foremost, it is possible to succeed and live a good life even with the challenges we face after losing a loved one. The hurdles we encounter do not need to stop us and prevent us from living fully and contributing to the people and the world around us in a positive manner. Even on the hard days, when you want to just lay your head on your pillow and cry, you can have the assurance that the sadness will not last. Go ahead and shed those tears with the knowledge that the wave of sadness will pass and you will move forward in your grief.

Another similarity is that we can trust God to lovingly care for us. Just as Lizzie put herself in an exposed position and trusted us, allow yourself moments in life to be vulnerable and open with God. Rest assured that He indeed has your back. Picture His arms around you, keeping you safe, warm and secure. When the rest of the world may be out of your control and seem chaotic, accept the peace that He wants to offer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

Living with grief is difficult. Yet, it is something each of us will be required to do at some point in time. Knowing that God is trustworthy, loving and able to comfort will speed you along your journey when you encounter grief. Do not be afraid of living like Lizzie. In the midst of the challenges like sorrow and pain that are present with loss, you can find happiness. Take another look at her picture. I hope it gives you just a little smile and a strong reminder to look for joy even in the sad, hard times of life.

Until next time –

Karen