Necessary Endings and Grateful Goodbyes

We recently had to say goodbye to our beloved beast , Frisco. Our rescue lab was 105 pounds of muscle and teeth, slobber and fur, and suffering with mouth cancer. He was ferocious about squirrels, treats, and digging holes- man could he dig a hole. Really it was a thing of dirt-flying, slobber flinging, rock rolling beauty.  

Naughty doesn’t even begin to describe him and his antics. Once he ate an entire frozen chicken thawing on the counter, careful to leave the plastic wrap. You should have seen him waddle uncomfortably all the way to the vet. Another time, he ate a double fudge chocolate cake without so much as a burp. He ate Cheap, the baby chick we were raising to satisfy our dream of being urban chicken farmers. He sneakily picked off my daughter’s birthday cupcakes one by one, until finally I noticed they were missing. He peed on my neighbor’s leg while he and I were chatting at the corner. He pushed toddlers down in the snow and made them cry. If there was trouble, he found it. Some days I would shake my head, and wonder, “What am I going to do with you, dog?”

But then there were other days that I felt grateful that when nobody wanted to go on a walk with me, he did. And if everybody in the house was mad at each other behind closed doors, he wasn’t. And when the family complained about the dinner, he wanted seconds. And that he taught me about God- like that no matter what, I loved him because after all he was just doing what dogs do, and I knew that’s how God loved me but even better, even when I’d get myself into heaps of trouble. 

So yeah, it was hard to say goodbye.

Whether you have to say goodbye to a pet or a person, a job or a parent, saying goodbye is never easy. Of course there are some griefs that are bigger than others, but grieving principles are the same. There are some things that make grieving better- healthier- and yes, even sweeter. Here are some things to consider the next time you’re faced with a goodbye.

1.      Say/write what you need to say: Every relationship has unfinished business. Whether that be secret hurts, resentment or regrets, relationships are never perfect. Consider saying what you  need to say in person, offering the opportunity for healing moments before there are no more moments to share. If dealing with the unfinished business in person is impossible, then consider writing it down and keeping the letter for yourself. Expressing your thoughts and feelings is often times more for you, than it is for them. 

2.      Forgive them for their failures: No matter what, even the most loving people can let us down. Before you have to say goodbye, do some due diligence forgiveness work. Look inside and identify things that you still hold them accountable for. See if there are things that you haven’t let go of. Determine to be free of those things once and for all, and to activate the power of forgiveness. Bitterness eats us from the inside out, but forgiveness sets us free. Don’t let the gift of forgiveness be left ungiven.

3.      Forgive yourself for your own failures: you may feel like you have let them down, or that there were things you wish you did differently. Acknowledge your short comings and ask for forgiveness if necessary. Give yourself the compassion you try to extend to others. Accept yourself with both strengths and weaknesses.

4.      Accept reality and make the best of it: The reality is that goodbyes and loss are always with us, and are apart of life until all is made right in heaven. Accepting the reality of what is, instead of wishing for what is not releases us and gives us peace for the challenge. There are many things we can’t control, but we can always control our response to them. There is untapped grace and power in this truth, if you’ll embrace them.

5.      Be grateful for what you can be grateful for: in every struggle, sickness or loss, the task to find the good is a challenge. It may even seem impossible, but it is absolutely necessary in order to grieve well. There may be nothing good about the situation, the illness, or the circumstance, but there is always something valuable happening in your heart if you let God in. Find God’s hand working with you and for you, and you will be able to find gratitude, even in loss.

Saying goodbye to Frisco was hard and tearful and painful- and necessary. At the end, we told him “Thank you for being in our family, and thank you for being you. Because we are better for it..” His life was a gift to ours.

In the midst of your goodbyes, maybe you will find the power to love, the strength to heal, permission to start over, or the courage to dream again. Maybe you will find your kinder nature in the place that was most broken. Maybe you will find strength and courage in the place you thought was weakest. Maybe you’ll find yourself in the other person, and you’ll feel love.

God desires to do a loving work in you that sometimes requires hard goodbyes. Surrendering to the process will produce healing in you and the people you love. The goodbyes are often just as important as the hellos.

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