We thought our dog was dying a few nights ago. She clearly was in pain and panting heavily. Her eyes were dilated and fixed on me. She stood in the hallway, where she never stands, between all of our bedrooms and struggled to stay standing. She finally laid down and could barely keep her head up or her eyes open. The six of us gathered around her and wept.
If any of you know our family, you know that Madie is a notoriously naughty dog. We got her when she was a tiny puppy and although she is so sweet, she is bad! She once ate an entire Costco chicken while we were outside with our neighbors talking about how bad she was! She’s eaten a 9X13 dark chocolate cake, not leaving a crumb behind. She’s eaten out of the kid’s hands and off their plates. She eaten our frozen dinners that have been dethawing on the counter. Most recently, she was barking in the garage. I went to figure out what was wrong and she was stuck on top of our deep freezer because she had jumped up there to eat the cat’s food and then needed assistance getting down! She is so naughty, it’s not even funny!
I blame myself and Phillip for not putting in the effort when she was little to train her well! Owner error. Good parenting lesson for us though – put in the work while they are young!
Even with all of her naughtiness, Madie is such a sweet pup. She has always welcomed our babies into our house with a sniff and a lick. She keeps them company during naps and lets them climb on her. She loves a good ear rub and hieny scratch. She was Phillip and I’s first baby and we all adore her.
So that night, when we thought she was dying, we all felt the impending loss. We knew that while food may be safe on the counters, the house would be too quiet without her.
There would be the presence of her absence.
Loss has a presence.
It really doesn’t matter the type of loss – loss through death, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of a dream, loss of an expectation, loss of a plan, loss of a sense of security – there is a presence that goes along with it. That presence can leave you feeling trapped, lost, broken, stagnant, isolated or hopeless. Whatever the loss is that you are experiencing today, you probably feel the heavy weight of its presence.
What do you do with the presence of an absence?
I am certainly not an expert, but I do know some things that help me when I experience a loss of any kind.
- TELL Jesus about it. He can handle your sadness, he can handle your anger, he can handle your fear. Whether it looks like crying in his presence, yelling at him in anger or just asking him to help you, Jesus is there and he can handle it. He will see you through.
- TELL your journal about it. When I’ve experienced loss, whatever form that loss takes, sometimes the last thing I want to do is write about it, but writing about what you’re feeling forces you to actually name the emotion that you are having. And naming what you are actually feeling instead of just living in the spiraling tornado of emotions is a baby step to take towards healing. Writing it down often brings some clarity to your mind. The circumstance may not change but having a clearer mind about it may help you to know what to do next.
- TELL someone else about it. Depending on what type of loss you are experiencing, it may seem like the easier option to keep it to yourself, to put on a smiling face and keep moving. Eventually though, that will catch up to you. Letting someone in might mean calling a friend or it might mean going to a counselor, whoever it is, just do it. Let someone in. When you let someone in, the circumstance will probably not change, but what will change is that someone will be holding your hand through it.
Well, after all the tears and prayers, Madie made it through the night. She was slow the next day, but there was improvement. By the next night, she was almost back to her normal self, sniffing the air at the table for food. I found out the next day what had happened – she had eaten a wad of duct tape. Seriously?! She may be naughty and she may be sweet, but smart is not one of her top qualities.
The presence of her absence did not come that day, but it will one day come. She is back to her naughty self, but my heart is a little softer towards her. Maybe that was the point, to remind me that I love her.
No one is immune to loss. We all experience it at some point or another. The situations may be different but it is still loss. We will have trouble in this world, but if we anchor ourselves to Christ and to others around us, we will endure the storms, we will come through the pain of loss and we will make it to the other side.
How are you experiencing loss today? Or maybe not today but next week or next month. Some sort of loss will come eventually.
Are you telling it all to Jesus? He can handle the good, the bad and the ugly.
Are you telling your journal about it? You will get to the other side of your loss. It is so powerful to write things down and then look back at them later. Reflection is where growth happens. Write it down.
Are you telling another about it? Having someone by your side while you walk through loss is beyond important.
Try telling. You may be surprised at how the weight of your loss feels a lot lighter. The presence of the absence may not seem as thick. And the presence of Jesus and others will carry you through.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8.
Jesus, meet us in the presence of absence.