When I was a very little child, I had a small dog I called Blacky. He stayed by my side every day and slept with me at night.
I also had a favorite grandpa I called Pop. He used to pretend he'd climb into the trunk of our old car to come home with me after we visited him each summer. Of course, when he couldn't keep up with our departure I would cry as I saw him stand and give a final wave goodbye.
One particular summer, before I ever started to attend elementary school, Pop and Grand Mom invited me to stay with them for a whole week on their Pennsylvania farm. I was delighted and reluctantly left my buddy Blacky behind in New Jersey.
After the visit, I arrived home all excited to tell my mom and dad about my adventures, but first I had to find Blacky. But where was he? I searched and called and searched. At first my mother suggested I look in different places, but he was nowhere to be found. Exhausted by the end of the day, I sat down and cried. My mother, who must have mistakenly thought I would forget all about him while I was away, finally gave in to the temptation to say "He must have run after you when you drove off to go to the farm." At those words, I went from upset then to inconsolable!
With sadness beyond anything I can describe, and guilt too big for a child to bear, I continued to search and search and search for my little dog, my friend, Blacky, but never found him. My parents didn't give me another dog after that either. Most likely they couldn't bear to see me suffer.
Years later my mother told me that Blacky had not actually run away to find me. He had been out in the street one day and hit by a car. I realized then and talked with my mother about how if I had only known the truth about Blacky, I could have grieved my loss and not felt the pain of never finding out why he left me, nor the guilt of having left him behind, or perhaps being responsible for his disappearance. I now know that I had suffered what is called "unresolved grief."
Children and adults suffer unresolved grief when they don't get closure from a loss.There are different ways to gain closure, but it is important to tell children the truth. You may need to edit what you tell them, according to their developmental age and ability to comprehend. But, as you can see from my story, it is important to tell them the truth.
I have had many pets, most of them dogs throughout my adult life. Each one has been special in some unique or unusual way. I grieved each passing, and celebrated each wonderful life. But, I have never felt their loss in the same way as I did when I lost Blacky.
Have you ever suffered from a loss and experienced unresolved grief? Let me know if something about this article has helped you in some way.
(PS: The picture above is of Coda who is only 7 years old and is doing very well.)
Susie E. Caron MA,
Author, Blogger, Podcaster,
Christian, Wife, & Mother, helps build parent-child relationships, 1 blog, book & podcast at a time.
Welcome! I recently retired from combined careers in teaching, psychotherapy, and parent coaching to spend more time writing.
When I'm not busy creating books or articles, you might find me looking for dark chocolate or riding my beautiful horse Apple in the woods and fields of Vermont.
These articles are for educational and self-help purposes only and are not intended as psychotherapy.
If you experience unusual symptoms or discomfort please see your medical or mental health practitioner.
No patent liability is assumed for use of the information contained. The author disclaims any responsibility for loss or risk for use or application of this material.
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Blog Reviews & Thank You!
July 13 at 7:17pm ·
Just wanted to say that I love your posts about the different ways to connect/relate/understand your child. It has given me a new approach towards understanding my daughter and allowing HER to tell me how she feels instead of me suggesting to her how she should feel. Thanks Susie!