Tuesday, February 16, 2016

It Takes a Pack

A little under three weeks ago, we had to say goodbye to Puppy Girl.  It was the right time, by my reckoning, not too soon and not too late.  My wonderful veterinarian, Karen Pearson, DVM, who we have followed through a few veterinary practices, and who has treated Puppy Girl for ten years, came to our house.  Puppy Boy was there, along with the rest of her family, at the end.  We laughed, and told stories of her and her Boy and our prior dog.  Karen's part of our pack: she felt our loss like it were her own and gave us the support we needed.  I've always felt that way about her.

Now, however, Puppy Boy is without his Girl.  Like any other caregiver, he spent the greater part of the last few years tending to his charge.  He worried over her, made sure she had plenty of attention, and tormented her with puppy games to keep her engaged.  Now that she's gone, he seems lost.  Daughter's dog isn't much help- to Puppy Boy, he's a new addition and competition for affection.  What's a Puppy Boy to do?  Turn to his pack, of course. Mommy is his "go to" when he's feeling needy, with daughter running a close second.  Without us, he worried his paw and chewed it.  He looked lost and unhappy.  We've given him lots of love, and tons of attention. We've kept the rest of his schedule and life as much the same as we can, and he's slowly returning to his old self. 

Here in the Trenches, a lot of our clients are like Puppy Boy.  Their marriage and their spouse were the constants in their lives.  Without them, our clients are adrift.  We know they will get their bearings at some point, and move on to a different life.  The question is what to do in the meantime.  The temptation for most people is to throw out the baby with the bath water.  They want a clean break, they want no reminders of their marriage or their spouse, and they jettison everything from their old life all at once.  Big mistake.  Even though those things from the old life can be painful, pain is necessary in order to move forward.  It's a requirement in order to work through the stages of grief.  If you ignore it now, it will just come back and rear its head at an unexpected time in the future.  As strange as it sounds, a clean break is not so healthy.  We need reminders in order do the hard work.

What else do our clients need Here in the Trenches?  Like Puppy Boy, they need their pack.  As we saw with Puppy Boy, their pack isn't just anyone.  It's not someone in a like position, or else Daughter's dog would have done just fine.  Their pack is the people they count on to keep their lives on an even keel.  They are the folks who have been their constants through their life.  A lot of people don't want to be these folks, because they don't know what to say and do to make our clients feel better.  That's too bad, because our clients don't need someone to do something to make them feel better: just being there makes them feel better.  Really, what our clients need to know is that they're not alone and they're still loved.  By the way, Puppy Boy is doing much better, just like our clients.  Here in the Trenches.