A Sense of Loss

Often an injury can result in a sense of loss. How can you describe a sense of loss? There is a sense of knowing that no matter what you do things will never be the same. It is a feeling that grows as your mind gets time to play out the scenarios and the domino effect makes it obvious that your life is forever changed and despair is what remains. It sounds a bit extreme, but perspective isn’t instant and people really need to take time to mourn the loss.

One of the saddest days of my life was the day I killed my dog, Mickey. I was 13 years old, working on the farm, driving the tractor and pulling the rock picker out in the field picking rocks. Picking rocks was a very common task on our land and I like to think I was fairly good at it. It wasn’t a straight forward task; in fact your success in filling up the bucket depended on your ability to swerve quickly when seeing another unsuspecting rock. It was a very dirty job the way we did it because we didn’t have a cab on the tractor and either you were raising dust with your tires or with the tines on the rock picker.

Mickey and I were inseparable; he was a french poodle, but he thought he was a German Shepherd. On this particular day, Mickey was following behind the tractor and was making me a little nervous. Sure he was behind the tractor, but he was right in front of the rock picker. Knowing that I needed to keep swerving and that I couldn’t ensure his safety I yelled at him to leave. He left for a while, but then he came back. I yelled at him a number of times, but he kept coming back. Finally I turned towards him and yelled in my gruffest 13 year old voice “Get Outta Here!”, throwing my hands up in the air. I’ll never forget the response. He just stopped and looked at me. I hit the brakes as quick as I could, but thanks to the extra animation I used to deter him I didn’t stop quickly enough. I saw the rock picker paddle come down in front of him and push him up onto the tines of the rock picker. Noooo!! It looked like it pushed him so gently, but his little body just lay on the tines.

I jumped off the tractor and ran to Mickey as fast as I could. His head was crushed and his tongue was hanging out of his bloodied mouth, but I wanted to believe he’d be alright. I remember carrying him and putting him in the front bucket of the tractor then driving back to the farm yard as fast as I could. The tears flowing from my eyes created trails of mud down my face. My family gathered around quickly; Mickey was quivering and shaking, but unresponsive. When my Dad saw Mick he knew there was nothing we could do and although I didn’t want it to happen there wasn’t any alternative but to put him down.

It felt like I had just killed my best friend. I remember it was Mom’s birthday and that day and I had just given her the worst present ever. I just wanted to turn back time. I wanted to stop the tractor and pick up my dog and pet him and be with him. I wanted to go back to the way things were, but my dog was gone. There was nothing I could do to change this dire situation. I felt so bad because of what I did and that the last words Mick heard were “Get Outta Here!” I spent unheard of hours with that dog and he just wanted to be with me; it seemed like his only fault was that he loved me too much.

We had a little ceremony and buried our furry little friend, but his absence was noticed. We never had him greeting us at the door when we returned from school. We didn’t have him by our side as we played and worked outside. Over time the pain faded and I was able to focus on how fortunate I was to have such a great dog.

I have mentioned before that being an amputee is similar to losing a loved one. A person has to come to grips with the fact that part of your body is no longer there, but that you need to adapt to this change. I am a finger amputee and I’m sure this mourning would be even more difficult for limb amputees, but likely every amputee has taken time to mourn the parts of their body that are no longer intact. After my injury I spent hours just looking at my hand, comparing it to my left hand and to what it used to be. Mourning is natural and it is an important part of the healing process. Don’t avoid or supress the loss, but take time to experience it, endure it and learn to embrace it and then move on. I’ve talked to many people who completely forget that they’re amputees, I’m not there yet, but it really does get better with time.

If you have comments or suggestions, or are struggling with loss and just need to chat with someone feel free to comment on this post or just send me an email.

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