How designing a book helped my family grieve

How designing a book helped my family grieve

It really wasn’t a difficult decision to put down Charlie, our Australian Terrier. So much was wrong with him physically any of which would have required extensive visits to the vet and surgery and he absolutely feared visiting the vet. I was relieved my daughter Millie understood Charlie had done his dash and that anything more would have been to meet our needs not his.

However, when I went to the surgery and waited alone in the room whilst the gorgeous and kind vet put the catheters into his paws, I howled. I understood that I had lost a true friend, someone who had greatly enriched my life. I hadn’t realised how much I was going to miss him.

The vet was brilliant. There was no pressure and Charlie never trembled as he received the injections. He relaxed and then Charlie was no more. I buried him in our garden and he has a little headstone.

So Charlie has gone. He did our family proud and we won’t forget him. He was the dog I never had when I was a child. I’m so glad my family was able to enjoy him for such a long time.

Millie was very keen to do a book of Charlie so in my garden studio we spent a day compiling images of Charlie that we turned into a book.

 

The day was a lovely opportunity to talk amongst ourselves about how much Charlie meant to us with photos reminding us of how deeply Charlie was woven into the fabric of our family. Sorting, selecting and placing the images into the book allowed us to honour Charlie. 

Similarly, since I built my garden studio four months ago, my funeral clients have been able to gather together and review images that I have taken at their parent’s/sibling’s/child’s funeral. By giving them a reason to spend time focusing on the funeral to select their preferred images, this practical form of grieving allows them to share together how they felt on the day of the funeral. It has also allowed me to understand which photos resonate with them so that when I design the funeral book, I am able to highlight the images most relevant to them.

When Charlie’s book arrives, we will have a book launch to give us another opportunity to share how we felt about him. And whenever we feel it appropriate, perhaps on the anniversary of his death, we will sit down together and go through his book. Charlie’s book has given us the opportunity to come together and discuss what he meant to us and it is this public airing and sharing of grief that has lessened our pain, by acknowledging we all miss him so much.

I also made two picture cards which we sent to both the vet thanking him for his kindness and to Monika’s Doggie Rescue where we originally  found Charlie. We did this not only to express our thanks but also as a way of publicising our grief in order to dissipate the pain of loss.

book of the life of Australian Teririer

The Book of Charlie