Monday, March 31, 2014

Grief and the Days that Follow Saying Goodbye

Savannah's first baby picture

It has been a week in a long 18 year story. Not days of vacation, but days of separation. I am still here and you are gone. Not to any place I can see you, carry your little flannel draped body under my arm, rub your velvet ears, or hold your little foot in my hand. There are no more kisses on my hand, sleeping in my arms, or days for me to thank god that I still got to share with you. I am filled with sadness and I miss you.

If the hardest thing was the acceptance of that horrible realization that you were better off away from the body that carried your free spirit for all of those years, the truth is that the act of putting your body to rest was excruciating. It took a leap off a cliff without being able to breathe. There was never a sadder moment, a more painful wound to open, or a decision completely my own that I wanted to flee and hide from more.

How your heart can duel with your sense of responsibility, obligation and selflessness I do not know?

After Savannah took her last breath, fluttered her last heartbeat and slipped her last moment from my life I cried in hysterics as all of the fear, doubt, pain and guilt drowned me.

The tears of exhaustion of months of interrupted sleep, clean-ups, and attempts to soothe a colicky child who answered only to the mysterious whispers that only she heard caught up with me, ambushed and overcame me. 

The grief of those first few days was crippling. As a friend said it best, “the loss was devastating.” And that’s what it is.

Trying to get through the first day was the hardest. I am thankful for my husband’s shoulder to lean on and my bed to lie in. What resulted was a meltdown of epic size. I know myself well enough to know that I need time, space and a place without interruption, away from the well-wishers, simpatico sentiments, or intrusion. I know that I need to be quietly alone as I try to cope with the grief of losing someone that my life revolved around. It has always been difficult for me to articulate why. Attempts to assuage my concerned friends, my protective slightly overbearing mother, and my staff (who thank goodness have seen me here before and know that a little note in my mailbox is the safest way to express a sympathy without sending me into an uncontrollable tidal wave of tears), can't be done in person, or over the phone. I need to hide away for just a little while. You have to be true to who you are. Take a few moments to sit with your memories, pay tribute to the memory of your loved one, and remember to breathe. There is always a sunrise and a tomorrow and a tiny sparkle of faith that time heals even the deepest most tragic losses. But for me it happens after I close myself to the world, and furrow under the sadness.

That first night:
It was a blur of tears of loss, relief, guilt, question, doubt, fear, and loss. All mixed and muddled together. I needed and took time to wallow in the murk. I knew I had to let her go, and yet I struggled to find some small justifiable, excusable reason to keep her. I was soo tired. She was a burden. A heavy, relentless, inescapable curse.

And yet,  I racked my head to come up with one more option to thwart fate for one more day. Maybe if I sedated her, let her rest a few hours, put her in the underwater treadmill, bought a harness, or cart to support her back legs, maybe..just maybe I could buy her another day.. Maybe I could buy two, or three? Or…maybe..??

Wouldn't it just be easier to go through life in the middle? I could go to work and take care of other peoples pets. Get a lick, a purr, a jumpy happy puppy, all on someone else’s time, and heart strings. No attachments, no highs or lows, just midstream easy street. How many of my clients walk out of their pet’s euthanasia mumbling this sentiment? I understand why when your heart is crumbled and hurting.

That night was so quiet. No rumbling and stumbling in the night. No drinks of water. No pausing of my sleep to listen for her struggles, whimpers, cries, snoring, and breathing. I haven’t slept in months. It will make you crazy. There is guilt even in my restored sleep that I would happily trade back.

The day after: 
I took a look around my home. Every single square inch is another reminder of a life my home has lost. The whole main floor was Savannah-proofed and I was stuck internally dueling over how long I could keep her shrine in the middle of our house before my husband realized what I was doing, and, feeling like a grief obsessed and crippled mom. 

Day two:
I cleaned. Keeping my hands busy keep my mind quiet and made the time pass.

That night it hit me, the house was unwontedly quiet. There are four cats and two dogs in our home now and they were mute. I realized they have been this way for...oh, I would guess.. a year? It has been that long since I could remember them playing in the house. And there was yet another line item on my guilt list.  My other kids have given up on me, stopped asking for attention from me because I was too focused on Savannah.

I started telling Savannah’s story to try to help other dogs. But when you make your personal story public there is an obligation to telling the whole story. When Savannah’s story ended I wanted to hole up and bury my grief in solitude and silence. But that too would be selfish. So on day two I sat down and spilled it all out.

Day three:
I collected all of the things she left behind that I no longer need.  Four bags of bedding, her fleece onesies, her lights, her harnesses, the bumper guards, the rugs, the pee pads, the night lights, the refrigerator full of food options, they all went away. There would never be a moving on if I couldn't move it out. It broke my heart repeatedly.

I walk by her grave daily, like it calls to me as if I still need to check on her. I hope and expect it to bring me a tiny respite of peace, and it fails me every time.

I have heard from friends , family, and people I have never met about how they followed Savannah’s ups and downs and how her story resonated with them. Finding her, having her be a part of every day of the last 18 years, and knowing in my heart that 18 years is an incredibly lucky blessing that many wish for but never get, sharing her story and the love, support, and kindness that it paid forward has been life changing.

Going back to work helped. I needed to get out of the house, get away from the time and space and vacuum of grief. I needed to give my overactive mind a time out. I needed to share my love for my pets with other pets. There is no grief a wet nose, a wagging tail and the soft fur of a purring cat can’t cure.

Day four:
I can stand again. I can almost talk about her without sobbing and I can feel more gratitude than sorrow.

Day six:
I found myself talking about Savannah and my grappling with how I knew when it was time as a client sat sobbing and holding her depressed anorexic end stage heart failure pup.

“Well, when I knew that there was nothing else I could do to make her feel god, or keep her living a happy life I had to make a very hard, very unselfish decision to let her go.”

She looked at me and said, “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”

“I know.” I replied.
I gave her a big hug and together we put her sick and dying dog out of the pain and suffering that a very sick heart causes.

For all of those of you who have lost a pet I extend a warm hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, and the promise that you are never alone. The love you give lives on, it never fades, and it never leaves you. If there is any way that you can look into the eyes of another pet you can perpetuate the love again do it for yourself, for another heart to heal, and for the memory of your departed. It helps, and your heart can fill again..that space of my heart that Savannah had is still there. But like my cardiology teacher taught me about the Frank Starling Law of the Heart, the size of the heart increases with the increased load placed upon it. So you see, your heart will get bigger and bigger the more you fill it..

Savannah and her best human friend dancing on the porch of our old house.

The original gang, walking the Virginia Tech campus.
I want to express my deep gratitude to my friends, family, staff, clients, and all of those that sent condolence cards, flowers, and even donations in Savannah's memory. I cannot express how much it helps and how grateful I am.


And from a dear friend;

Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month.

The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.  She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her.  I told her that I thought that we could, so she dictated these words:

"Dear God,
Will you please take care of my dog? Abbey died yesterday and is with you in heaven.  I miss her very much. I 'm happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.  I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls.

I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog.  I really miss her.



We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey & Meredith, addressed it to God/Heaven.

We put our return address on it.

Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office.

A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand.

Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'WHEN A PET DIES.'

Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope.

On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

"Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.

Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart.

Abbey loved being your dog.

Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in so I'm sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me.

What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I'm easy to find.

I am wherever there is love.




  1. Oh, honey. Knowing how it was for me, I so hate you having to go through that too. Sadly, sooner or later it is inevitable.

    My mind started blocking out those days and the couple days before that. I am thankful the human mind works that way, even though it took a year for the memories to start getting "adjusted." Yet, every time another friend's dog passes, I go through it all over again in a way.

    The thing that helped me the most, and is still helping, was what the animal communicator relayed from Jasmine, as well as the spiritual connection I was able to make.


    1. Thanks Jana,
      The pain is the other side of the "loving so much it hurts" sword,,cant have one without the other..I am getting helps to be surrounded by so many wonderful understanding people, be busy with work that I am so deeply committed to, and have a place to put my thoughts on paper.

      (((HUGS))) back!!

      and as always,
      Thanks for being such a good friend, a shoulder to lean on,and a true inspiration!

  2. Krista,
    I did not know until now. What I just read, was a heartfelt tribute to Savannah and a tribute to you also. Through your words here, and the many other accounts of Savannah theses past several months, I say “Thank You” for sharing all of what is so dear to you.

    Nothing can really ease the pain, ...... what may help a little : “It is not that they died, but that they have lived”. You gave the best to Savannah and she is forever thankful.

    1. Thank You!
      I am so grateful to have had so many wonderful years, and to have so many people around who can relate to all of my ups and downs..I know that I am not alone, that Savannah's life touched many and that maybe we can pay it forward..

      Thanks as always for your friendship, encouragement and for being such a devoted fellow cat fan..


  3. We are so sorry for your loss. Although we have never met we followed Dr Morgan to your office several years ago and I have read your blog for some time now. Suddenly last week out 12 yr old sweet baby boy died in my arms. No warning, just gone. We can only guess that is was a blood clot as nothing was bothering him up until the moment I heard his cries of pain. To say this little guy was my best friend is an understatement. My husband, our 2 daughters and I couldn't handle the silence in the house. 4 days later we brought home a puppy. I struggled with the thought of "replacing" my sweet baby boy. But my husband was right, we all needed a smile on our faces. And although I cry in pain every day for my best friend I have no doubt in my mind that our hearts needed to grow and love our new little girl. We can't thank your office enough for the love that we have received as well as the support in both the loss of our friend/family member and our new baby. This blog post is just what I needed to read this morning. May our sweet baby's be running in peace with no pain.