Letting Go of Control

On Saturday evening, Jessie, Quinn’s sister, died. My son Callum’s Shar Pei/Great Dane puppy was bitten by a 2-metre-long brown snake.

Her death wasn’t in The Plan. She should have lived for years. Instead, the Jessie stories have suddenly come to an end. They’ll be no more comparisons: “Is Jessie much bigger than Quinn? Send us a photo!” No more I’ll protect you! barks from a warrior puppy.  No more soggy doggy kisses.

We make plans. We think we know what’s ahead. And then something happens. In an instant, life flies out of our control. Without turning the page, or even moving to a new paragraph, the story changes.

Callum digs a big puppy-sized grave under the tree in his backyard.

Our one-day-old son is lowered into the cemetery ground.

A routine ultrasound. “I’m sorry there’s a problem with your baby.” As these few words hit our ears, our story changes. Just like that. No warning.

Our son Thomas died. There was nothing we could do about it. Sunk in my pit of grief, I cried, “My plan for my life was better than this one!” But I know, deep down, it wasn’t.

I survived the death of a child. I could never have done that on my own. Oh, at first, I tried to. But a day arrived when I knew that only God could help me. And so I let go of control. I had no choice. I threw myself into His arms. And I trusted that I’d emerge on the other side of grief.

Joy and sorrow. How can the world contain both? When does one turn into the other? Which one is ahead? I just don’t know. And does it even matter? We’re not in control. God is.

These days we don’t look too far ahead. Instead, we try to live life as we should. Right now.

Live. Give. Forgive. Love until it hurts. Trust.

In other words: Unschool.

It’ll all work out. It always does. Because we’re God’s.

Have you ever had an experience that has taught you about trust?

Images: I took these photos of our puppy Quinn (and Gemma-Rose) in August and July 2017. She has grown a lot since then!

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  1. Reply

    Oh, Sue, I’m so sorry to hear! Losing a pet is one of the most heartbreaking things that we can go through, aside from the other type of loss of which you speak. I send you a huge digital hug and many prayers.

    We lost our Rascal, a Bagel Hound (half beagle, half basset) about three years ago. She was almost fifteen years old. Fifteen years ago, my eight year old nephew died, after battling brain cancer for four years. He was as dear to me as my own children, as the oldest child of my little sister.

    I know how these “things” can rock not only our world, and our peace, but our faith as well. Living through it is something that often can’t be described in words, but the fact that you so eloquently linked this to unschooling is so needed in today’s world. And so true.

    Thank you for sharing your heart during such a hard time.

    1. Reply


      Thank you for your prayers and understanding. I didn’t spell out the pain but you understand. You have obviously been there too. I’m very sorry that you also know what grief feels like.

      I also didn’t explain the unschooling connection with many words. Maybe some people won’t get what I tried to share. But I can see you do. Unschooling isn’t just a method of education. It is a way of life built upon a foundation of unconditional love and, for us, trust in God. And, yes, this is what our world does indeed need. Sometimes it can look like there’s no hope in the world. Of course, God will never let us down despite appearances.

      Hard times give us the opportunity to develop real trust and love. We always learn and grow because of them, don’t we? But still, they can hurt. Thank you for your kindness and for the hugs. xxx

  2. Reply

    How very sad for Callum and the rest of the family! I know how much he loved that puppy. I guess it’s hard to say whether it’s more difficult when you have to time to prepare or when these things pop up out of the blue. I hope he doesn’t blame himself. Also, is it too late to switch my life level to “easy?” I am always touched when I hear you speak of Thomas. What a difficult experience and yet when I hear you talk about Thomas I don’t have a feeling of dread. You have a lot of faith Sue. I know that you were not brought up a Catholic but were you brought up a Christian?

    I have been through a difficult experience also with the pregnancy of my 6th child and, although it was not nearly as difficult or dramatic a story, it was a very trying thing for me. I was living a very high-stress homeschooling lifestyle. I would have a schedule where the kids could work independently during certain times and then with me during other set times. I also had one of the older 3 children to entertain the baby(my 5th child). It was very important to me that I make it appear this all flowed very naturally so that none of my children or the outside world thought having 5 kids was a burden.

    But then I found out that I was pregnant with my 6th sweet little baby and a psychological abyss opened. I couldn’t see how I could maintain. Would I need to give up homeschooling? Would my 5 children be valued even less when we were out in public? My little girls had very fine hair that often looked terrible after a car ride and on top of that they hated ponytails. I guess I would really need to make sure they looked just right when we went out and make sure they behaved correctly. Definitely no more Halloween costumes at the store, that was the privilege of children from smaller families. There were other concerns. I felt very alone because it seemed like the life I wanted for my kids was slipping out of my grasp and I was alone.

    I remember having a few times where I really felt that God was about to send somebody my way to intercede and everything would make sense and fall back into place. But nothing dramatic happened. Looking back, I did gain some really important things from this experience. It completely broke me down and I am much more open to the inspiration of the moment. Clearly planning will only get me so far. It led me to unschooling and my friend Sue. I think maybe letting go of control is the hardest and most important lesson we have to learn.

    1. Reply


      Thank you for sharing your story. I feel very sad that you weren’t supported during the difficult time you described. Instead of criticising you for having lots of children, it would have been more helpful if those around you had offered their help. We are all quick to judge. We look from the outside and don’t see the true situation. I wonder how people would have felt if they could have seen the pain their attitude and words were causing you.

      Having a big family is indeed difficult at times. We could choose the easy pathway and do what others advise us to do, but then we’d miss out on so much. We do learn what is really important when life is hard. It’s not Halloween costumes or tidy hair. It’s love.

      I’ve been thinking about how love can hurt. Love and pain are so closely bound up with each other. I guess if we avoid the pain, we miss out on the opportunity to love. We, like you, choose to love.

      Your words about not being prepared, reminded me of when I was pregnant with Thomas. Many people have asked if I’d rather have not known he had a health problem during the pregnancy. Would it have been better not to have grieved for those 5 months? I could have enjoyed that time and then just faced the pain after Thomas’ birth. I have decided that God arranged things the best way for me.

      Callum wasn’t prepared for the death of his puppy. That was a shock. I don’t think there can be any guilt associated with Jessie’s death. Callum was at Mass when his dog was attacked by the snake. By the time he arrived home, it was all over. Both the dog and the snake were dead. Jessie had bitten a few chunks out of the snake, probably in an effort to defend Callum’s smaller dog who survived. Sadly, snakes are a constant danger. They are part of life here. A snake could easily slither out of the bush at the bottom of our garden and attack our dogs. I guess, in a way, we are prepared for the worse. We just pray it doesn’t happen.

      I’m glad God connected us together. He does that a lot, weaving bonds between us all so we can love and encourage each other. It’s been good to chat!

    • Nancy
    • January 16, 2018

    Dear Sue, so sorry to hear about the death of your son callum’s beloved dog. We too are dog lovers and lost a dog many years ago when it was hit by a car. Many many years before that when I was 12 years old as I’ve shared with you before my father was killed in an accident at the age of 43. You never can prepare for things like that and your life will never be the same. But I can honestly say that if I did not have Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior I would not have been able to get through. Love you Sue. Praying for your family, Nancy

    1. Reply


      You are so right: When difficult things happen to us, our lives are never the same again. I’m so sorry for your own losses and grief. Yes, where would we be if we didn’t have Jesus as our Saviour? I pondered that question often after Thomas died. Losing him was hard enough, but I know it was easier because I had my faith. Faith gives meaning to Thomas’ life even though it was very short. And though we can never fully understand, we can trust that God is there looking after us. He loves us so very much. He brings good out of everything.

      I love you too, Nancy. Thank you for your prayers and kindness. xx

    • Holly
    • January 16, 2018

    Wow. I think this is your best post yet. Keep going.

    1. Reply


      Thank you! I am encouraged to keep writing!

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