I awoke Tuesday unsettled. Short-tempered. Kind of like a second Monday after a bad case of food poisoning over the weekend (This really happened.) Yeah, that was my Tuesday this week.
And then I remembered that I had to get something in the mail that morning before the mailman came. I decided to do what any good homeschooling mother would do.
I divided and conquered.
I asked my very capable 8-year-old to take her bike to the end of the driveway to put my letter in the mailbox. The events of the next hour were none I could have foreseen. But they can’t be unseen and I can’t take them away from my child.
Before I tell you this story, I think that’s the hardest part of being a parent. You can’t take away their pain. You can bear it with them, but you can’t ever erase it.
I thought toddlerhood was hard, but the journey into my child being affected by this world has brought me to a place of repentance and helplessness, but ultimately it’s brought me into the grace and hope of God our Father. I’m so thankful for my faith and protection even when the world comes crashing down around us.
So back to my Tuesday morning. I was inspecting an infected bug bite on my 2-year-old when I heard an otherworldly screech from the driveway. I thought my daughter was hurt. Really hurt.
But she wasn’t. She was just terrified. Her dog was hit by a car when she was at the mailbox. The person took off and did not stop. She witnessed a tragedy alone.
That five-letter word kills me to type. Alone. My baby had to go through that alone.
Don’t blame yourself. Be strong for your child.
I had a choice to make when this first hit me. I can feel guilty or I can move on and help her overcome this. I chose the latter.
Because she’s so much like me. She was already doing enough of the guilt trip to herself.
She loved this dog with every breath of her being and when we found him, she was certain that he would live. And he tried. He desperately tried to get up to comfort her. But he was hurt very badly.
A lovely neighbor came and helped me gather him up to see if we could get some emergency care. She took my children to her home and comforted them.
I drove all over the county trying to find her dog some help. It was an unfortunate circumstance that the vets we chose were closed that day. We found one, but he was already gone when I got there.
Fight for them before the Lord.
I fought for my child to not lose this pet in prayer. I begged God to not let this happen.
But the answer was no. That’s still hard to write. It happened. And I think it was actually fortunate that the dog was quick to go. He was badly hurt. Very badly hurt.
But he tried to hang on for my baby. He loved her so well.
I had to go through the options with the vet of what to do for him as a final tribute. That was horrible. But they were graceful and even kept him until my husband could get back from out of town.
Get your mind in order first. Or get some help.
Then I had to go tell my baby he didn’t make it. I called two women who’ve been there and done this. They told me to just hold her and tell her.
I decided that my very verbal, extroverted girl did not need to handle grief like her mama. I decided that we would seek people for her to talk to. It’s unconventional. But so is she. She needs to breathe and talk and cry and be big and bold.
So, I went home from the vet and cleaned myself up. I gathered clothes for all the kids and walked out the door.
Make your child your priority. Don’t get stuck in retribution.
As I was getting in the car, a car approached. It was the man who hit her dog.
My first reaction was, “Where were you in my hour of hell?” (I didn’t say this BTW.)
He walked up and tried to explain what happened. I shushed him because I was too angry to talk. He asked me about the dog. I told him that he didn’t make it and that I was about to share that news with my child. But I appreciated him stopping by.
Some men were installing rails on my porch and saw this exchange. They felt like he was trying to cover his tracks. He had a marked car and they thought he was trying to avoid trouble. Probably so. But I don’t care. I care about my girl.
Do what your child needs; not what you need.
When I got to the neighbor’s house, my big girl saw it all over my face. She broke down. She was in true despair and there was not a single thing I could do to stop it, but I had gotten over the worst of my pain in all my driving.
And I was present for her. I listened and held her.
I gathered her up and took her to Chik-fil-a. She walked in the restaurant in tears. She hugged the staff. They hugged her back. They fed us for free. (And whoever said Chik-fil-a is to be boycotted can well, you know.)
My dear friend held my baby and encouraged her. She encouraged me. She watched the littles when the big girl and I walked outside.
Let your child contribute to the decision-making.
We decided that our Marmaduke would want her to continue her life and not shut down. She decided to go to her dance practice, but we had some time before dance. So, we went for haircuts.
Another dear friend joined us and encouraged her. She got a sassy new bob from the hairstylist who only works on Tuesdays.
She went to dance and talked with a girl who is becoming a real friend. She was encouraged and lightened.
I knew she needed this because we were about to have a funeral. Her daddy had been home preparing a final resting place for her puppy. I know that’s one of the hardest things he’s ever done as a parent.
We had our neighbors join us for the funeral. We told funny stories about this goofy dog. She talked the most. Because that’s what she needed.
Be prepared for huge emotions. Don’t try to fix them.
When we walked back inside, she fell apart. We snuggled and let her cry it all out. She tried to bargain with herself to have changed the situation. Because she’s big on control. But I kindly shared that she was not at fault. That she was the best thing that ever happened to her puppy. He truly loved her more than I’ve ever seen any dog love a child.
Know that you aren’t to protect your child from pain. You are to bear it with them.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2
And I sensed a change in her life. She’s growing up. She’s not quite so innocent anymore.
That’s hard for me to face, but it’s something I’ve already faced. I faced the death of a sibling when I was not much older than she is. And I can use that experience to guide her.
Know we have to go to battle with our children as we enter this world. But we have the protection and provision of the LORD.
Just that morning she and I’d read about what it meant to stand in the fire and stand on what we believe even when it’s hard. I’m standing on what I believe. God placed that specific Bible study in our morning so that she and I could connect.
Before I read her the story, I had a conversation with her about how she would hear some things she’d not heard before about the world. Things that are dark and ugly and things that would strip her of the protection I’d placed on her for the past eight years.
I told her I knew she was ready and that I would be by her side as we learned about this world and how to live in it.
I now know that was the Holy Spirit talking to me and my girl. We were about to embark on a turning point in her life and He prepared us for it. I’m so thankful I pulled out that book.
Always look for the thread of grace. The hope.
I’m so thankful for the thread of grace that was woven through that day with people and situations that were exactly what we needed to move forward.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
So the five word answer to how to help your child when they lose is to “Look for the hope always.” It’s my life motto.
I pray that you have the hope that can be found in Jesus Christ. It’s available to you. Contact me if you need help finding it.