a place of abundance

"we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance" Psalm 66:12b

Grief and Puppies August 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — vivmabuni @ 12:43 pm

It’s been one of those weeks.

Actually, one of those months.

Well, thinking back now, it’s been one of those summers.

Disappointment, grief, disbelief, sadness, anger, confusion, fear. Multiple areas and in different degrees

Sometimes there are downsides to social networking. From the looks of what covers my Facebook news feed, everyone has really enjoyed a fun-filled, refreshing, wonderful summer. We aren’t in that category this time. But I’m genuinely happy for those that are.


It’s not been all bad. Sprinkled throughout the darkness I find glimpses of grace and hope. So thank you to so many who have prayed us through some rough times. Please keep those prayers coming.

I’ve been thinking about how pain and grief shape our souls and how we view and live life. Few are exempt from experiencing disappointment, loss and throw-your-hands-in the-air-bewilderment. I find myself drawn to people who aren’t afraid to move into grief. People who understand and have experienced pain. Jesus was described as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). There is a knowing through experience that produces safety.

Losing our dog, Max, so tragically opened my heart to grieve.  I’m just not good at sitting in grief. My go-to involves a fat heaping of denial and move-through-as-fast-as-possible and replace or numb out the uncomfortable and unfamiliar feelings that get stirred up when faced with loss. But this has been a summer of grief. So I grieved losing Max and all that he meant to our family. It also gave space for me to grieve other things that I keep pushing down.

  • Remnants of post cancer emotions.
  • Lingering challenges of health related stuff like having lymphadema.
  • The bittersweet “last time” of everything my oldest will walk through as he heads into his senior year of high school.
  • The now and the not yet of working in ethnic ministry.
  • A lot of other things that are not blog appropriate

Grief is a gift from God. A way to work through the emotions and come to a place to make space and take in the new without losing the good in what was lost. I learned from Debbie (of the Awesome Threesome), that grief doesn’t happen linearly. The stages of grief don’t happen exactly in order. Sometimes new losses open up unfinished grief in unrelated areas. There isn’t a “right way” to move through grief. Along the way things can trigger emotions that sometimes feel as strong as the initial devastation.

My dear friend from church, Lisa, asked me the first week of August if we were in a place to think about getting a new dog. Her husband, Allen, had a friend from work who knew someone with purebred German Shepard puppies almost weaned and ready for a new home. Truth is, I had been on the internet looking at shelters and rescue dogs. I just wanted to numb out, replace, or stop the awful emotions of loss and grief. Bottom line–I wasn’t ready.

Darrin and I checked in with the kids the third week after losing Max. As we talked as a family it soon became apparent that we were ready but the boys weren’t ready yet. Darrin could see that the boys needed more time since they were the ones who saw Max injured, bleeding and had to take him to the vet and then to animal urgent care. They displayed impressive maturity, but the event was traumatic.

As we moved into the fourth week, Lisa checked in again and I told the family about the puppies. The interest was growing. So we asked for more information and pictures. We opened the door to the possibility. But then a text came back with news that all the puppies were already adopted out. I was only mildly disappointed but Julia cried. I had looked at a dog rescue site and contacted some of the volunteers about their dogs. We talked again as a family about taking advantage of the time before school starting to get a new dog and having more time to help transition and get to know a dog while the schedule was relatively free.

Then a few days ago Lisa texted me. When their friend went to go pick up his puppy, there was ONE LEFT! Were we interested? More conversations and talking. Yes. We were ready. And interested.

God has been kind to us.

Allen, along with his three daughters picked the puppy up from Monrovia since they were in the area on Saturday. Their daughter texted us a picture of our puppy. I. Fell. In. Love. Tears of love and gratitude in my eyes. He was above and beyond what I expected.

Three nights ago Allen, Lisa (now god-dog parents) and their daughters carried our puppy into his new home in a cardboard box. We named him Koa. It’s a Hawaiian name for fearless, brave and strong. He’s ten weeks old.

Koa is an absolute delight.

I remember hearing Carolyn Custis James teach for the first time about the book of Ruth. Her book, “The Gospel of Ruth” is a must read. She spoke of how Naomi was like a female Job in the Bible. Both Naomi and Job lost everything and in the end God restored their families and children. But what she said struck me in an entirely new way.

“It’s obvious to anyone who has experienced a significant loss that the sorrows of this world and the wounds they inflict in our souls cannot be compensated no matter how much good fortune and prosperity come our way…To suggest that everything balanced out in the end for Naomi is to trivialize both her sufferings and also what God is trying to teach us through her story.” (Gospel of Ruth, page 198)

Carolyn put it together for me in a way I hadn’t understood before. Job and Naomi never stopped missing the children they lost. Ever. And even though the outcome of their lives may look like everything turned out “happily ever after” their pain and loss was never removed.

And so in my own little life I am learning about grief, loss and pain. We welcome Koa with open arms and hearts ready to love him deeply, but this side of heaven the pain and loss of losing Max will never be removed. And as with all things grief related, there are often more questions than answers. Life doesn’t tie up nicely. Grief can bring us to deeper places of intimacy, but if left unprocessed can lead to resentment and other emotional cancers.

And so we hold two things simultaneously from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Grief and puppies.


20 Responses to “Grief and Puppies”

  1. Jeedoo Says:

    Thanks, Viv. Beautiful!

  2. Jerry Powell Says:

    thanks for sharing. Congratulations on the new puppy. Hopefully you will be blessed with this new doggie. He is bound to enjoy all the love…..

  3. Kiersten Hale Says:

    Best title ever. Love it. Incredible content. Thank you for taking the time to write and put your thoughts and feelings out there. You are so appreciated!

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Thanks for your comment, Kierstin. Means so much to me to know that you are in my corner. I love that I can hear your voice as i read what you write. 🙂

  4. Barbara Culwell Says:

    Vivian. Thanks so much for sharing what you are learning about grieving and loss. We lost our 9 month old puppy tragically too (10 years ago) andI cried and cried for days.. It definitely opened the door for grieving many other losses that were going on during that time also. I appreciate your vulnerabilty.. Lately I have been grieving over several things and you are right it is so unexpected and hard to explain at times. Your post came at just the right time for me. Thanks!

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Barbara, thanks for reading and commenting. I am so sorry to hear about your puppy. I never understood until we had a dog of our own. Grateful for how the Lord can use our words to connect with others and that this post was timely for you. 🙂

  5. Helen Says:

    Beautiful post, Vivian. I’m not a dog-owner but I could clearly feel the depths of the emotions you have been dealing with with the loss of your dog and I rejoice with you at the newest addition to your family. What a great name you’ve chosen! May he more than fulfill the promise of his name. Thanks for sharing this slice of your life with us.

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Helen, thanks for reading and commenting. I am slowly learning to find my voice through written words and your encouragement means the world to me. Truly.

  6. Bridget Says:

    Thank you Viv for your eloquent post. It encapsulated my summer (and last two years) as well. We just finished a series at church on Ruth. Its amazing how God can speak the same message through many different venues, including your post 🙂 My husband and I have experienced heartbreaking loss recently and are amazed at how God is always meeting us when and where we need. Keep sharing, it is greatly appreciated!

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Bridget. I love it, too, when God brings together multiple reminders from different sources to encourage, guide and let us know of His care. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Grateful with you that you and your husband are experiencing God’s provision and nearness during this time.

  7. regima Says:

    Thanks so much forsharing this, Viv. I know what you mean about everyone posting/tweeting about their amazing summers… My suspicion is that those who had unhappy or bad summers didn’t say anything about them publicly! (I know I’m one of those individuals.) So, more power to you for sharing the process of your grief with us.

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Appreciate your encouragement, Regina. Sorry to hear your summer was also a bummer. Look forward to introducing Koa to you. I think you will like him! Think of you and Jonathan often. Sending hugs from my coast to yours.

  8. Merry Says:

    Beautifully written. So sorry to hear of your loss and grateful for your blessing. You and your family are often in my thoughts and prayers.

  9. Melissa Niegocki Says:

    So precious and profound your words! i am now passing this on to my dear friend & neighbor who is nursing her husband through a grueling process of chemo. Her children are now back in school.
    i love you, my friend. Melissa

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Melissa, always good to hear from you. Joining you in praying for your friend & neighbor. There’s no way around how awful chemo is. Praying for God’s tender assurance, His comfort and unexpected places of encouragement. Love and miss you!

  10. Jeni Savig Says:

    Thanks for sharing Viv. One sphere of grief opening up others has been my experience the past several weeks. My brother John (who lived in Japan) died three weeks ago, and in processing this loss, many others have risen to the surface. Yes, in the deep places of loss, we are pushed into spaces and places of grace – alive to the present as painful as it may be and alive to they mystery of God’s goodness in it all. Love your writing sweet friend. Keep it up!

    • vivmabuni Says:

      Jeni, I am so very sorry to hear of your brother’s passing. Must be extra difficult when dealing with it all on three different continents. Praying for you as you grieve. I cherish those brief moments this summer outside Moby seeing your passionate and understanding eyes and enjoying in person your warm hugs. Grateful for you and the impact you have made in my life. Love you.

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