Even Death Requires Practice

by Fred

I have repeated many times that negative emotions and negative stimuli have a purpose in life. People come to talk to me about problems they want NOT to have. This is the wrong approach to any problem. Some problems simply cannot be solved. And some of our own problems must be solved by someone other than ourselves, like my web hosting problem last week. We face such problems daily at our house. And we use them to our advantage.

Tessa’s golden retriever is advancing into the final stages of life. He may have another year, but this is the third dog in three years heading that way. So, Tessa is a little touchy about it.

Our separate points of view on death are almost as contrary as can be. I grew up slaughtering my own food. I worked in a slaughterhouse in college. I euthanized my own pets if they needed it. Tessa, on the other hand, cries if the cat kills a bird. She almost cries watching a spider suck a fly to death. So, to her, losing a dog is very near losing a close family member.

It’s Sunny this time. He is going the same way Old Nevarre went a couple of years ago. Failing kidneys. Bad arthritis. Hindquarter paralysis. It is perhaps worse since the symptoms are so similar to the other dog. She feels the pain more inevitably. But perhaps therein lies the blessing.

Death, like any other part of life, should never be avoided. Yes, denial is part of the path toward acceptance. But denial is not avoidance. It is a step in communicating with death. When denial does not move to the next stage, it becomes avoidance. As her old dog hobbles round the house and yard, Tessa is preparing herself to accept the final moment.

She still has tears while she watches him, of course. But I recall that, two years ago, she worried and fretted much more as Nevarre lost strength and grew fragile. She seemed determined that he would get better. The final decision to have him put to sleep was a quick and terrible one that she is still feeling two years later. Watching these symptoms with Sunny is preparing her to take his final days better.

If I know Tessa, though, she will feel even worse if she doesn’t grieve as much for Sunny as she does for Nevarre. If she ever says that, I’ve got this Update that might be able to explain the difference to her. She didn’t love Sunny any less. She was only more prepared.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

haps insurance

Great post! I want to see a follow up on this topic!!



thats an interesting twist at the end. life would be so much better if we could stop death.



Well, we only have to die once, Melanie. At least as far as we know. Remember that old movie where Jimmy Stewart talks to his dead wife at her grave? He wasn’t an overtly spiritual character, but he could contact her spirit. It made him miss her less, somehow. I guess if we can’t stop death, we can step over it somehow.


Michelle Land

I don’t think being prepared for death makes it any easier.



Grief shouldn’t be made easier. Grief is an equalizer. No one’s suffering is any worse than that of others. That’s why grief is such an important emotion. It advances us toward maturity by increasing our capacity for empathy. The better we know grief, the better we can show compassion and consolation to others. And the more attractive we become to others.


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