When My Son Died, My Dogs Helped Me Grieve

They gave me support when I needed it most.

4PM Production/ Shutterstock
4PM Production/ Shutterstock

            My son Brendan and I shared a deep love for our three animal companions: our Yorkie Lottie Ann, and our pair of Coton de Tulear, Lucie and Luckie. They are family, and Bren referred to them as his sisters. He was responsible for giving them their breakfast at 6:00 am, and then taking them outside into our yard. The yard is just below my bedroom window, and I could hear him talking to them, laughing, calling their names, and encouraging them to “Go!”

            My son died in December. I will never forget that first morning when I had to care for them. As I watched them go outside to “do their business” before I fed them, I cried so hard, missing my boy. As I scooped their kibble, I thought about how his hands had touched this scoop last and would never do so again. The ache in me was crushing. At just that moment, as I turned to pile Lucie’s food into her dish, she did a vertical leap into the air, and I could hear my son’s laugh and him saying, “Mom, look at the cute thing Lucie does when she sees her food!”

            I knew then that Bren would be with me always. I knew then that these girls would help me grieve and help me learn to live without him and still experience joy. They stuck closely by my side for weeks following his death. If I was sitting on the couch, they would position themselves so each of them was touching my body. And I know they grieved too. Lucie made a soft sound, something between a sigh and a moan for days. I knew just how she felt.

            Assuming the feeding duties for them gave me something I had to get up and do when I was not sure I could even get out of bed. They literally kept me going. They gave me unconditional love and support, not abandoning my side even when I was consumed by gut-wrenching sobs. They did funny things that I know my son found delightful that reminded me to laugh and stay in the moment. They reminded me that I am alive, that I am not alone, and that there is still joy to be experienced. And for that, I am grateful.

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