A couple weeks ago, my family lost our beloved canine companion to old age. Boomer was a rescue dog who found me in 1998 while I was attending college. We grew up together and took care of one another. He was my family. I’ve often joked that he was the most constant man in my life. He was 14 years old and was there for me when I faced domestic abuse, met the love human love of my life (Greg is pictured above with Boomer), and was wonderful during the birth of our daughter. With the exception of one other pet, this is my first animal I’ve had to grieve and let go in my adult life. I’ve been very lucky in that regard. I also had another first, talking about death to my young one. As a mother to a now 4 year old Ryleigh, the conversation was hard. We talked about with the facts about dying and leaving this Earth. She seemed uninterested and continued playing with her toys. It was only a day or two later when the realities in her young mind set in did she begin asking questions, that I wasn’t prepared to answer. While I grieved the loss of my best dog friend I had to talk with her about life, death, and love. Her questions were complex. I have never been prepared or will I be prepared for a conversation or a series of conversations like that. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Hard conversations are well, hard. I’m not a fan of avoiding them or making up false truths that mislead others whether it’s work or my personal life. I don’t sugar coat conversations. I just never have. It’s been a blessing and a curse as I climbed the corporate ladder at work. I spoke my mind and inserted myself into conversations where a Director level manager never would if they wanted to keep their job. And keep my job I didn’t. This honestly was more of a curse the higher I climbed. It’s what now sets me apart in my consulting practice and why many read this blog. We cut through the crap. We give it to you straight, but most importantly we prepare, plan, and rehearse for those difficult conversations at work and life. I don’t have the time or patience for anything else. Doesn’t my daughter deserve to know the truth?
Friends suggested I just tell my daughter Boomer ran away, and I baulked at the idea. While it’s my job to protect my daughter, there are some things in life we must learn to accept, and one of those is death. Three years ago my cousin lost their longtime companion, a mastiff named Sandy. He was an amazing dog and very kind. Their son was about the same age as Ryleigh when he passed. It was only later did we learn the white lie they told to spare his grief. While Greg, my husband explained to my cousin’s son, Carson about an upcoming trip he was taking to Washington DC, Carson suddenly got excited. Maybe Greg would see Sandy in Washington DC while he was there. Afterall, he had gone there to help the Republicans fight Obama. And apparently, he was too busy to write, call, or visit. The nerve of that dog.
Over the last few days things seemingly began to return to normal even though there was a hole in my heart. We mustered up the courage to find a new dog, a 8 week old Airedale named Butter who Ryleigh absolutely loves (see pictured to the right). The feeling is mutual as that puppy follows her like the sun rises and sets. And for my husband and I, the sun does rise and fall with her since we found out we were pregnant nearly 5 years ago. But things returning to normal? Yea, I was wrong. Ryleigh has been acting out back talking yelling, and the final shoe is hitting her friends at school. She’s spent an awful lot of time in time out these days thinking quietly in her room which is the worst form of torture for any 4 year old.
While I know in my heart that honesty is the best policy, and that we did the right thing, it still is hard. Ryleigh is working through things in her own way just like me. Conversations like these are never easy, and I try my best to be patience yet firm. She needs time to process and make decisions for herself. We all do. Hitting others, however, is not the answer. Life is filled with choices and as managers and parents we are responsible for preparing and guiding our employees or children the best we can. I can’t continue to make decisions for her forever. I have my own life and eventually, likely to see for my liking she will have a life of her own. In order to prepare them, I must give them the knowledge, tools, and guidance to help them make the best decisions for themselves.
Workplace and Life honesty is hard. Being a parent is even harder. Will Ryleigh move past this behavior? Yes, it’s likely she will. I have to trust and let her come to grips with the new realities in life in her own way. I just won’t be too far away when she needs me for a hug, a snuggle, or to answer another hard question she asks me.
Article by Jessica Miller-Merrell
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