Losing Aby: Grief and Stillness

Posted by on Aug 27, 2016

Losing Aby: Grief and Stillness
Aby, dog laying down between rocks


It is done. There is a stillness in the house that I don’t recognize.  My husband asks if I want pasta and wine. My son is singing Jeff and Paige songs. I realize that the stillness is actually inside of me- her parting gift. I wish to hold her warm body in my lap, stroking her head and gently rubbing the pink spot right above her nose. Instead it’s my laptop on my lap. A poor substitute for a soft, furry friend and the feel of her breath going in and out. I wish I’d have remembered that more throughout the years when my computer sucked me in.

“She went really quickly,” Danielle says. “Her body was tired. Sometimes they hang on for us.”

The stillness. Suddenly I am craving it. I ask my husband to do bedtime routine. He graciously agrees, even though he is hurting too. I want to be alone. I want to be drenched by what has happened. To not skimp over even the smallest part of it. Her death has made me more grateful for my life, and right now that means for my grief.

The morning of my 6 year-old is angry at me.  I do a number of things wrong including walking down the stairs “too fast” and driving the “wrong” way to school.   “What day is it?”  He asks me.  “Thursday,” I say.  “Do you remember what is happening on Thursday?”
He looks up at me, “I was hoping you’d forget.”  A few days ago he begged me, “Please don’t call the person to kill Aby!  Please!”  I try to explain that it’s killing done gently with compassion, assisting an inevitable transition, but he has trouble taking that in.  When Danielle arrives, his anger is gone, replaced with a detached silliness.  “I want to tell Danielle a knock-knock joke,” he says.

“Who’s there?”
“Isabell who?”
“Is the bell working?  I rang 4 times.”  She softly laughs and picks up her black bag.

“Take some deep breaths Momma,” he tells me as I sob.

There is a stretcher, and a warm blue blanket to cover her. My husband helps carry her to Danielle’s car. “You’ll get the ashes in 7-10 days,” she says.

Aby will come back, only in a different form. The thought of her thin body being consumed by flames is disturbing. The thought of welcoming her home again is comforting.

I hear dogs barking in the distance and cars whiz by unfazed. The strange space of life after death is alive, breathing through me.

Was I good enough? Kind enough? Loving enough? Appreciative enough? Patient enough? Gentle enough? Did I honor her spirit enough? Did I wait too long? Not long enough? The stillness merges with grief and pulsates my temples. I know regret is useless – its insatiable hunger feeds on itself creating more by consuming the present moment.

She licked my nose as I wept before she died, taking away a tear. She hasn’t done that in awhile. She did the same to my husband, perhaps as an acknowledgement of goodbye and of being ready? Or had she been ready and could she finally sense our readiness?

I held her as she transitioned out of her body and into the unknown, her sweet head cradled in my arm. “Her body was tired.” The vet’s words are my life jacket in an ocean of grief, some reassurance from the outside that I did the right thing. I know it to be true from the inside looking out too. I feel it in the stillness.

The next day I’m at Target with my son, and he loses it over something small.  We get to the car and I ask him, “How are you feeling?”
“Sad and tired.”  He replies.
“Me too,” I say.  “Do you know what you need?”
“No,” he replies.
“I do, I need my dog.”
“That’s what I need too,” he agrees, pauses, and then asks,  “Why didn’t I cry yesterday?”
“Sometimes our feelings are so big and overwhelming we can’t feel them in the moment, so we feel them later.”  I explain.  He pauses again.  “That’s what happened to me.”  And, Momma?”
“There’s still more.”
“Yes, for me too.”

To all my clients: A heartfelt thank you for all the love, attention and acceptance you gave Aby in her last few months. Her best days were the days she spent at my office, giving and receiving love, roaming the property, and feeling a sense of purpose. I am forever grateful.


  1. You are loved

  2. 105 years old by human calculation-long life. Will miss Aby chasing the rabbits off my lawn-Xman must take over her job!

  3. Thanks Susan!

  4. I have many memories of Aby. Ball chasing, hiking, digging up my dogs secret bone treat in my back yard; one I think my dog forgot about and was then jealous when Aby found it.
    Aby was a comfort to me when my dog Nestor died. She was such a loving and fun dog, I will miss her.
    Thanks for sharing Jacey.

  5. Thanks Maureen.

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