Monday, July 20, 2015

Deep Grief: Asking the Right Questions


            Deep grief knocks the wind out of you, makes you feel numb and paralyzed, intensely frightened or helpless. When experiencing deep grief, the only question we usually ask, over and over and over again is: “Why! Why? Why!?”
            And that’s understandable. When we’re in deep grief, we’re usually not thinking clearly. Our mind goes numb right along with our body. With the passage of time, however, we are often capable of asking the right questions. And that’s when we really comprehend how profoundly a loss affects our lives. In the analysis, we often find that the loss changes us in good ways. It deepens our love and appreciation for others; it causes us to live life less selfishly. We are matured.

            I don’t usually interject stories of up-to-date happenings in my life into this blog, but I think the experience my husband Chris and I had Saturday night and into the dark hours of Sunday morning bear telling. While it certainly doesn’t compare to the loss of a child, a kind of deep grief occurred in plain sight.
            Our seven-year-old Shetland sheepdog, Dolly, needed to go to the emergency vet. We packed her up and drove to the vet, (after calling ahead to notify them of our arrival). Another patient and the animal’s owner and her son were already in another room. The young (probably eight years old) boy occasionally traipsed back and forth from the room to the restroom and candy bar plate, more to keep himself occupied, I think, than anything else. He certainly didn’t look concerned about what was transpiring in his pet’s exam room. After Dolly got weighed and ushered into her exam room, and we paid the initial exam fee, we were asked to park ourselves in the waiting room until the doctor or assistant came for us. Not long after, the boy’s mom exited the exam room to make a tearful call to someone. Soon after that, another couple whisked in the front door with a disheveled looking dog wrapped gently and protectively in a towel. We could hear the woman who was holding “Charlie” breathlessly explain his serious symptoms. “He’s sixteen, and we were worried…” Her voice trailed off as the assistant quickly ushered them to another exam room. I stopped pacing the floor with the book I was reading, and Chris stopped pecking away at his computer to look up at me over his glasses. He shook his head sadly as we shared knowing glances. We’d gone through this scenario only ten months ago. Tears filled my eyes. I could feel this woman’s pain of impending loss, the fear helpless and fear of the truth, and I knew it would only worsen.
            “Charlie didn’t look so good,” I said quietly.
            “I don’t think Charlie’s going home,” Chris replied. I could only shake my head in agreement as my eyes filled with more tears. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, tell her to bawl her eyes out. I knew it would get easier as time stretched the days between loss and more life lived, but those words wouldn’t have helped her. At that moment, her heart was undoubtedly screaming, “Why? Why this night? Why this way? Why not one more day, one more month, one more year?”
            Those questions don’t usually come with answers, but they help us refocus our grieving energies someplace. We want answers; we want to understand, because understanding often gives us some semblance of control.
            One of Charlie’s owners came out of the exam room to stand at the counter. The technician quickly joined him there. He shook his head as she quoted the $600.00 fee to him, and he paid it. Then he quickly retreated into the exam room. About fifteen minutes later, soft crying leaked underneath the door from the room in which the boy and mom were saying goodbye. Then that door opened, and they left, without the pet they’d brought. The little boy didn’t seem to comprehend what had just taken place. He patted his mother's thigh, looked up at her face, and shot rapid-fire questions to un-responding, tearful mother as they rushed out the door.
            Soon after that, deeper crying filtered out to us from beneath the other exam door. The weeping continued for ten minutes, and then Charlie’s owners bolted from the room and through the front door. The woman cried loudly as she clutched the vacant towel to her breast. Chris and I looked at one another again. “Charlie didn’t get to go home,” Chris said.
            “No,” I responded. “I hope our dog doesn’t make number three tonight.” He peered at me over his glasses again as he raised his eyebrows, shook his head and gave me a: no-guarantees, it-just-might-be-us-too look. My heart ached for Charlie’s owners as I tried to strengthen my heart for any verdict we’d soon receive.
            Our story had a happy ending. After setting us back a significant chunk of money, Dolly sprang through the waiting room and out the front door to sprinkle the landscape rocks with some of the water the doctor had just injected into her dehydrated system. She leapt happily into my lap and pointed herself, her nose, and her alert, searching eyes forward— like a rigid bowsprit—as we drove home at 4:15 in the morning. 

We’re not out of the woods, yet, though. An elevated liver enzyme count they found means something is going on in her fifteen-pound body, and we are awaiting more blood and tissue testing results. We’re praying the liver enzymes, which need to be re-evaluated in ten days, will recede to normal ranges, and that God will grant us many more enjoyable years with our precious pet.
            But we know there are no guarantees. Every day, every moment is precious. And I breathed deep thanks that I would have another moment, another day with her. I might ask, “Why me? Why us? Why did we get a happy ending while the other two didn’t?”
            Those are possible questions, too, but I’m not sure they’re the right ones either.
            So what are the right questions, the “right” conclusions when you suffer loss?
            In my next post, we’ll look at this deep grief and some of the right questions to ask when God hurts our feelings.           

So, until next week,

Thanks for joining me!

May you find much to utter thanks for.