death · dogs · life · love

Grief for Beginners

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

Death is inevitable.

Nothing new in that — neither is the inevitability of grief.

Grief is for the ones who have loved and lost.

Last fall, I lost two beloveds. One was a human, succumbing to an excruciatingly slow decline. The other was a dog, our beloved Sno the wonder dog.

The dog had a better end than the human. He had his full faculties until his final day. Knowing that death was near, he ambled through the yard, sniffed his favorite spots, lay in the sun for a moment of bask before shuffling on to the next memory place.

Our dog died with more dignity, more acceptance, and more presence than most. We were supported by friends, family, many we’ve never met in person but who shared their own grief and stories about moving on with a forever larger heart for having loved a dog.

Loving a dog forever changes the shape, size, and geography of your heart. Every single person told us that. Many of them leaned into us, put a finger up and demanded that we invite another dog into our family.

Don’t worry.

We will invite another beloved into our home, but for now, we’re coming to terms with the wonder dog who no longer demands ice cream, to enjoy his breakfast at 5:30 a.m., and who acted as dog ambassador for the entire canine kingdom. Several friends now have dogs because he succeeded in his outreach.

In the meantime, I am learning about death and dying and grief. I lived the journey from a distance in the fall.

What I’ve learned so far?

You want to die like a dog.

In the meantime, live like one. Be joyous, full-bodied involved in whatever you are doing. Give first. Love generous. Take the fun road.

Something else?


Remember, cry, laugh, tell stories about the one who is no longer here in your life.

Take your time with grief — know that it is a wild roller coaster built to each individual. No one can tell you how it’s going to work, what peaks and valleys you’ll encounter — just that there will be ones that you don’t see coming and definitely are not prepared for.

There’s no preparation for having your heart broken.

There are, however, places to share your love of the one who died.

Yesterday, I had the great good fortune of talking about my dog for a podcast on a remarkable site called Memento Mori (which roughly translates to Remember Death).

At a book launch event for Katy Butler’s exceptional The Art of Dying Well, I met the person who created and curates the Memento Mori site. She and I chatted before the event, shared information about death cafes where individuals discuss death and dying over coffee, and discussed our own stunning heartbreaks and grief. Her guest arrived — and was a favorite work colleague from years ago. I agreed to talk about my dog for her podcast — and several weeks later our agreement came true.

For half an hour, I talked about Sno. I shared favorite memories, remembered mischief and episodes, and, yes, teared up a bit at some memories.

However, these were happy tears. For fourteen years, we lived with a joyous, smart, wise dog who taught us ways to live well.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

We’re all going to die — and we’re going to lose loved ones. Grief is a reality — to be thoroughly felt, feted, discussed, and honored.

If you live and you love, you will likely receive the gift of grief.

Here’s one way to honor love — and move past sodden grief to treasured memories.


There once was a dog. Another dog will join us. We’re getting closer to that time, but not quite yet.

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