Many of you know that we lost our dog Nigel (aka The Sock Monster), whom we loved deeply, on Saturday in a freak accident right outside our front yard. It was such a shock to us, and it’s the second time in the last 4 years that something like that has happened suddenly.
The thing is, there is nothing we can point to as far as negligence on our part. There’s nothing about which to say, “If we hadn’t done _________, he would still be here.” In a way, that’s good. We don’t blame ourselves… or anyone really for his loss. But in a way, it’s bad, because it is completely senseless, and hard to wrap our minds around.
Judd and I were completely distraught that first day. I cried so hard, my eyes were about swollen shut. But the first thing we worried about is telling the kids. After we lost our dog four years ago, and got Nigel, they kept asking if Nigel was going to die too. We were careful not to promise things that we couldn’t control. We just said that we hoped he would be with us for a long, long time, and it was ultimately up to God. We took all the precautions, got a radio invisible fence, trained him not to chase cars, brought him inside a lot. But we just can’t control everything.
So how did we guide the kids through their grief, while we ourselves were grieving?
1. We admitted that we were sad, and weren’t afraid to cry with the kids. We held each other and cried for a long time that morning. It’s good for kids to see their parents feeling and dealing with grief, not stuffing it in to “be strong for the kids.” However, we remembered this verse and were careful to season our sadness with Hope from the Lord.
1Thess 4:13-14 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
I believe that all of God’s creation is eternal, and will be present in its glorified state in Heaven. So our message to the kids is, “We are so very sad and will miss Nigel very much. But we know that Jesus is with him in spirit right now, and we will see him again!”
2. We prayed with the children. Our prayers poured out our hearts, asking God to give us peace and guide us through our sadness. We also told God how much we loved Nigel, and that we knew He was taking care of him now.
Samuel 22:7 In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.
3. We communicated that God allowed this to happen and knows how we are feeling, but did not cause Nigel to be killed. The sovereignty of God is tough to understand, even for an adult. I wanted the kids to be secure that God is with them, and that He has a plan for everything. But I also don’t believe that He causes tragedy. From what I understand, He allows tragedy so that HE will be glorified in His mercy and restoration. I don’t know if the kids got the whole picture, but maybe they will look back later and the message will sink in.
4. Let them achieve a form of closure that is meaningful to them. My creative six year old immediately got out the watercolors and painted pictures of Nigel. My introspective daughter (8yo) wrote notes to him, and wanted to bury them next to Nigel, along with his bone. The whole family went out to the site and had a little prayer ceremony, cried again together, and it was amazingly helpful for all of us.
My husband and I still think we hear him walking through the house or barking outside sometimes; our minds playing tricks on us. My daughters, every now and then, will say, “I really miss Nigel,” to which I say, “Me too, sweetie.” and hug them tight. But I feel like this weekend together was really healing for us. It built trust between my husband, me and the kids, and brought us closer to the Lord. He truly showed His Mercy and Grace in the face of tragedy.
Now, my husband wants to get another dog very soon. I’m just not sure I can handle training another puppy right now, or being afraid to lose him. What do you think? Is it best to go ahead and get another dog to fill the space Nigel left in our family?