Thor

A few weeks ago, we had to put our Thor to sleep. We did tell the kids that he went to heaven because both of us can’t imagine not having our pups again running and chasing. Anything that brings and teaches so much about love can’t just leave us.

Our family is grieving hard, and it’s definitely been an experience in honoring all the levels and types of grieving. Grief will immediately show the personalities of each individual. The girls are all at different levels of cognitive abilities, and they all process differently.

Kiddok at 19 is old enough to know exactly what happened, knew it was coming, and hated every moment. We woke her up on a Sunday to the message that she needed to come over and say good-bye. She’d previously lost a cat, and knew that this would stick with her. She’s a quieter processor. She wants to talk about it occasionally, but on her terms and more 1:1.

Peanut at 9 (by the way – it was on her 9th birthday this all went down) is at a different cognitive level. She’s never had a real loss, so this was her first experience. She’s been at a Catholic school for 4 years so that really played into her processing. She was alternately quiet and wanting to be left alone with  needing attention about it. She hated any reminders of the incident if she happened not to be thinking about it right then. Being 9, she wasn’t able to roll with every punch as it landed when someone grieved in her space.

Bug at 5 was very pragmatic. Rather than focusing on the loss of Thor, she focused on the fact that we still had Mahla, and she needed us. She tended to not process vocally at all unless someone started it. She sat and cried for a long time at the time, and then she sort of “bucked up” and moved on. I’m not clear how or why as we worked very hard to not tell the girls to change their grieving patterns. Crying (even hysterically) was honored a long time.

Bits at 3 is the one who truly surprised me and broke my heart. She had no filter on her grief. It was immediate, loud, and raw. (That’s the part that broke my heart.) The idea of her losing her buddy (as Daddy’s helper with the dogs in the afternoon) was so harsh. She also processes out loud. Everyone we talked to that day (and for days after) whether we knew them or not found out about our pup. (Of course, her language skills aren’t perfect at 3, so we sometimes had to interject and help the receiver of the message which isn’t at all awkward). She will still ask about it. This made it very hard on Peanut because she didn’t want the reminders and Bits needed to spit it out.

Then, there’s our Mahla. Our girl who lost a brother and has no cognitive ability to understand why he didn’t come home. She’s still grieving and we just had her into the vet because she’s clearly stressed. She’s licking and biting herself and giving herself an infection. She’s gotten so much love lately to try and make sure she understands she is still loved.

I can tell you that neither Mike or I was okay with this. It killed us to have to make the decision, tell the girls, follow though, and then “carry on”. I’m sure we failed each of the girls at different times by not honoring them and their needs through this. I’m sure we succeeded at other times by working with them to honor each other and give grace as needed. Mike and I both process differently (I’m an out loud – hence the blog, and he’s an internal). All I know is that we are both hoping that Mahla is with us for a long, long time.

See you again some day. Thor. Love you still!

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Going to church

I decided that I needed to be a better role model and make church consistently. And, that my daughters should join me. I figured the first day of advent is a good time to start. Mike is not Catholic (or practicing at least), so it was my 7, 3, and 2 year olds and myself off to church. My girls are not the best at going, but I expected Peanut, at least, to behave. She hits church once a week at school, and she gets the routine. In self-defense, I planned to be there early enough to get the last pew. And that was the last thing that went right.

As we’re waiting in a calm, quiet church, Bug hops up on the kneeler and proceeds to shake her money maker, while loudly proclaiming she’s shaking her booty. Finally calm her down, and I kneel to pray for a second. And I pray for patience and calmness. Not sure who God gifted with those prayers, but myself and my kids were not very patient or calm.

At about this time, they start what I think to be the opening hymn, and I say “girls, it’s starting”. They finish the hymn, and the leader says “We have a problem. We are missing a priest. We’ll sing another song, and hope one shows up.” At this point I remember God has a sense of humor. Clearly, the lesson in patience was also going to take on a sense of the ridiculous. (Breathe, Erin, breathe).

Another song in, and the priest comes sprinting in. (Or a fast walk, looking dignified while trying to adjust robes and get the show on the road). An announcement is made that he is not our expected priest, but willing to pinch hit. From the back he sends a thumbs up, and we begin.

By now, both little girls are nowhere near defined by calm. More like wild cats kept trapped in a cage (or pew). Peanut is happily telling her sisters that they cannot leave the pew. They are not so happily taking the news. Bits feints left and goes right, right out the pew. I leap Bug, move Peanut and snag Bits just before she goes swimming in the baptismal fountain. (fortunately, the fountain is above her head, so I have an exra second to grab her. (Did I mention this was during the Gospel so everyone can hear her?) The indignity of getting caught causes her to chuck her pacifier. These don’t just land. Oh no, the land and roll. The usher sees me trying to figure out how to hold her and grab the pacifier under the pew, behind some boxes. The gentleman takes pity on us and crawls between boxes and under the pew for me. Bug now makes a break for it as well. I catch her by the arm, she cries as though I’ve beaten her. (I snagged her arm, that’s it, I promise, and given the volume of noise we’re making, I’m pretty sure there’s people who saw me not abuse her.) (He, he, whooo, he he whooo – deep breathing)

Bits then decides to start taking apart the diaper bag (who taught her zippers?)… Extra clothes go a-flying, and then out came Bug’s extra underwear which Bits proudly shouted out. Then, the dreaded word “snack” begins to be shouted. Yikes!!! I have no snack. But problem solved. Bits finds crackers from a previous family and begins snarf before I can leap over and around the other two who have now conspired (I’m sure of it) to prevent me from taking those out of her mouth.

After more incidents of similar vein (from arguing over Doc McStuffins and Stuffy), to vying over who has the aisle seat, to finding the pacifier that had gone over 4 pews in front of us,  we get to communion. The second grader isn’t quite old enough to get communion (give us 7 months), so I ask her to sit and pray while we go up. I heft the 2 year old up, and snag the 3 year old by her collar. We begin the long slow walk up to the front for communion. Bits demands to walk. Bug is walking at her snail’s pace which happens to be mostly appropriate, but her drunken sailor walk nearly takes out a few elderly and their canes on our way through. (Tight aisles, what can I say). We return and begin to get coats and hats and scarves and mittens on. I take my eyes off Bits for a split second, and there went the bulletins that had been hanging off the back of our pew. To the mom of the little girl who was behaving, thanks. The help picking up the bulletins was almost worth the glares that seemed to say “parent them, would you?”. (I swear, I focused more on them than on the mass… Not sure if that’s good or bad.)

After an hour plus of sitting in church (late start made us a go a little over), my take away was “watch”. Watch for the coming of the Lord (or in my case, watch your daughters scatter bulletins everywhere, throw underwear, find someone else’s old food, book it down the aisle, and generally cause mayhem).

For those of you wondering why I hadn’t been taking my kids to church regularly, and thinking I was owed this experience, you are right. I was. Look for us in the back of the church again next week, but I might have reinforcements… My mother-in-law is scheduled to be here to celebrate a birthday, so one more set of hands might help…