Dealing with grief {Thankful Thursday}

It is Thankful Thursday, and I am determined to mine some appreciation from the darkest of places.  I want to be an example of the fact that no matter how horrible things get, there is always something to be grateful for.  This post may be a little graphic, as I process my grief.  Feel free to not read it.  This one I am writing for me.

Hit and run

On Friday, August 5th, my family’s dog was killed in an apparent hit-and-run.  We live on a state highway, that also happens to be a main street in our small town.  The speed limit of 30 mph is often ignored, and my dog is not the first to be killed here because of it.  My neighbor lost a dog the exact same way a few short years ago.  This is a fairly well populated street, with houses every hundred feet or so for a good half mile, at least.  There are lots of children on this street, too, with at least 16 children ages 5-15, in that same half mile.  At least 6 dogs live within two houses of me.  Well, 5 now.

I am very glad that I am the one who found her, and not one of my children.  I was getting ready to pull out of the driveway to go pick up my daughter at her sister’s house.  I looked up the road before pulling out, then I looked down the road and saw her.  It probably took three full seconds to register that I saw her lying in the middle of the road.  There was no question that she was dead.  Blood was everywhere on the pavement, as well as urine.  I jumped out of my truck, screaming in agony, and ran to get her out of the road.  She is a good-sized dog, weighing in at around 60 pounds.  She is half husky, half golden retriever.

Neighbors to the rescue

I picked her up and carried her to my yard, a mere 10 feet, and then sat on the ground keening as she lay in my lap.  I cradled her head in my elbow, and just held her and keened.  Cars stopped. Two women stroked my back and comforted me.  I heard one of them ask if I wanted her to call my husband.  That meant someone there knew me.  I opened my eyes to see who it was, and it was my neighbor.  She stayed with me the whole time I needed her, and I am so grateful.  One person who stopped offered to turn off my truck, which I had left running.  Another got my phone from it so that I could call the police.  I decided not to tell my husband yet, since I didn’t want his work performance affected on the last day of the work week.  I simply asked him to come straight home after work and that we need him here.

The police arrived and took photos of my poor dog, and of the place in the road where she died.  I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, but my lovely neighbor E had fetched her wheelbarrow and helped me lift Sif up into it.  I think we managed this before the police arrived.  I learned that I am not as squeamish as some men.  Sif’s head lolled over the edge of the wheelbarrow, and E asked the man who had stopped if he could help reposition her head to something more peaceful.  He could do no more than pick her head up by the ears, so I picked up her head and repositioned it.  I believe she was hit head first due to the lack of stability in her skull structure.  That assures me that she did not suffer.  She would have died instantly.

I texted my daughter to let her know I would be late picking her up and why.  Shortly thereafter I received a scathing call from my older daughter about how I should not have broken the news over text, I should have done it in person, how dare I?  In my still incoherent frame of mind, I told her to shove off, but with harsher language and I threw the phone on the ground.  Not long after I also received a call from their father, who inquired about what happened.  He did not scold me for it.  He said it would have been better, but what is done is done.  He needed to know since the kids are going to his house this weekend, and will likely still have grief to work through.  We adopted Sif just a month before he and I split up, so this gives him some time to grieve, too, before the kids arrive.

Moving forward

Once the police had gone, and E had returned home, I took a shower.  I was covered in blood, gore, and dog hair.  My whole left side looked like something from a horror film.  Flies were buzzing all over me thinking I was the corpse.  My 12-year-old daughter R observed that there is still tons of dog hair in the house.  I said we should sweep it up, but she isn’t ready for that yet.  She wants us to fill Sif’s food dish every night.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that we could only do that once since there is no one to empty it anymore.  We will have a funeral for her this afternoon after my husband comes home.  My mother is coming over to help me dig the grave. The kids are designing a headstone for her.

The police are now following leads to find out exactly what happened.  Someone said that a man stopped at the local store and said he had hit a dog on this street, so hopefully he can be found.  I am sure he is torn up about this, I am sure it was an accident.  I wish he had stopped as soon as he hit her and found me.  I was out opening up the chickens for the day in the back yard.  I was told that a different neighbor has security cameras on their house, so I texted them and asked if they could look it over to see if they can see who did it.  Alas, they could not, but they could give me other information.  I just want an apology from the driver.  I want to know why there are no skid marks in the street.  I want acknowledgement that they were in the wrong.  I need to see that they are human and do care, despite driving away and leaving my dog dead for me to find in the street.  I don’t want any more punishment for them than a speeding ticket, if that is appropriate.  Guilt can be powerful enough punishment.


My mother came over and helped me shroud Sif in an old sheet.  I wanted something more dignified than the wheelbarrow, and there was no way I wanted my children to see her damaged head when we buried her.  It would have been way too traumatic.  Having her in the wheelbarrow was an enormous help.  We were able to lay the kids’ old Powerpuff Girls bed sheet over her, then tip the wheelbarrow on its side so she slid out and onto the sheet.  From there, we pulled up the edges over her and covered her up.  We didn’t do any elaborate winding, we just used it sack-like to carry her to her burial spot, and later to lower her into the grave.

Sif's grave
Sif’s grave

As soon as my husband got home, I broke the news to him.  He had just worked ten hours in the factory and was tired, but he immediately set to work letting us help him dig a grave in the back yard for her.  This is no small feat in the Granite State, where the state crop is rocks.  It took about 45 minutes to dig the grave and set aside the big rocks.  We then called all the kids who wanted to participate over, lowered her in, and said a few words for her.  The kids threw in some flowers, musk mallows and Queen Anne’s lace that were growing right there, and each wanted to throw a handful of dirt on her before we closed it up.  My husband and I then raked and hoed the dirt back over her.  We laid the sod back on top, and then mounded the rocks into a cairn over the top.  The kids had found a nice piece of granite to use as a headstone and painted a marking on it, labeling it the same way I did in my photo above.  Alas, this is finger paint, so I expect the first rain will wash it clean.  When that happens we will go get an oil based paint to make it a little more permanent.

Mining for gratitude

So how do I take the tragedy and be thankful for it?  I’m not.  I am not thankful that my dog is gone from our lives forever.  I am angry about that, to put it mildly.  We are thankful for the things we want more of, and I want no more of this kind of tragedy.  I regret that, not being a “dog person”, I did not appreciate her as much as she deserved while she was with us.

I am thankful that I have wonderful neighbors, who stayed with me until I no longer needed them.  That E is so kind and thoughtful that she could move my dog to the backyard under the maple tree to await burial, and that she brought over her hose to add to mine so the officer could wash the blood and other out of the road so it isn’t a constant reminder (no rain expected for several days at least).  That she is my friend.

I am thankful for my 5-year-old A, who asked why everyone was sad.  Who, in her innocence, proclaimed that she was happy.  I thanked her for being happy, and said that she could be happy while everyone else is sad.  She can hold our happiness for us until we are ready for it again.

I am thankful for the police officer who cleaned up all the mess, and who took down her registration number so we won’t get a renewal notice next year for her license, and who is going to help get us some more closure.

I am thankful for my mother who drove a half hour over here to help me bury my dead.  She kindly offered to do the shrouding all by herself to spare me the pain, but I insisted on helping.  She was my dead and I was not going to shirk my duty to her.  My mother doesn’t like dogs in general, but she did come to love Sif.  She remarked how quiet it was when she arrived without Sif barking at her the moment she pulled in the driveway.

I am thankful for my husband who worked through his fatigue and his grief to do the lion’s share of the grave digging so we could lay her to rest.

I am thankful for my best friend J who let me call her up and work through what had just happened and begin recovering from the shock.  She allowed me to share the worst details that were haunting me and let me get past them.

Your turn

Have you suffered a great loss?  How did you get through it?  Were you able to find peace in the midst of your grief?

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