Grief is Part of Losing a Pet
The loss of a pet is a hard thing to bear, but please know that grief is part of losing a pet.
Life and things are temporary, but memories live on
These are simple words, words that can fill a heart with joy and take away the sadness of a heavy loss.
Losing a pet, whether it is a dog, cat or gerbil can turn the strongest of humans into a basket case.
Our pets are part of our lives, they fill niches that even best friends cannot fill.
Most pets know our innermost secrets; they understand our fears and comfort us not with words, but with knowing looks from eyes filled with love, devotion and loyalty.
Pets accept us as we are; they do not care how we look, act, dress or how much money we have. They love us in spite of our faults and possibly because of them.
When the time comes for our pet to make the transition into the other place that is unknown to us, the feeling of loss is more than we can bear.
For most of us the feeling of remorse and grief seems overwhelming.
It is very hard to share those feelings with people who have not had the opportunity to know what life is like with a beloved pet.
Some people may think you are over-reacting.
Others think you should just go and get another pet, but there are some that understand the depth of your emotions.
Talking helps and it is a great pain reliever. So if you have someone to talk to, who understands what you are going through, by all means talk to him or her, release and let go of the pain.
Emotions play a large part in going through the period of grieving for your pet. You need to grieve, let the tears fall as they may, scream and yell if it makes you feel better.
The stages one goes through in processing grief are many, for some it passes fairly quickly, for others the process takes a long time.
Many of us become confused as we do not understand what is happening to us and why we feel the way we do.
Grief is different for every one of us, because we are unique individuals we each see things in different ways.
Some of us may go through a denial stage, we do not want to believe, what we know is true.
There is a part of us that expects our pet to suddenly appear and we do not want any one to tell us differently.
That feeling is fine for a little while, as it gives us a chance to grasp the real meaning of what has happened.
This is especially true if our pet was taken away from us suddenly and unexpectedly.
Sooner or later though, denial gives way to anger. Anger is a great emotion, anger helps heal and anger relieves your body of heavy emotional weight.
Anger allows you to get upset with your pet for leaving you, you can yell and scream at God for taking your pet away, you can get mad at yourself, the vet, a family member or the person that may have caused the loss through an accident.
Anger is the perfect way to cleanse your soul and give release to all the things you are feeling.
Then suddenly the tears may start falling, you are sitting at the table drinking your morning cup of coffee and the dam breaks forth. You cannot control your tears or the sobbing, your heart is broken and you are certain nothing ever will make you feel whole and complete again.
You may find in the passing days you do not want to be around other people, you cannot concentrate and sleeping seems to be a problem.
Some people find food upsetting to their stomachs.
You may be feeling guilty that you did not do enough for your pet or your mind may be filled with all the “what ifs, I should have’s or why didn’t I’s” that the human mind can think of.
The emotions that a person can go through and the feelings that they are feeling are many.
Allow yourself to feel, whatever the feeling is; good or not so good, allow yourself to be immersed in it.
All this is the natural part of grieving.
At this point it would really help to talk to someone that has gone through the same experience and can share the feelings.
If you do not have a friend or relative to talk to, there are many numerous pet loss hot lines you can call. The Internet has chat rooms where you will be able to find people who are going through the same experience and they too, need someone to listen to them, as they will listen to you.
Don’t be an ostrich and hide your grief.
Yes, this too, shall pass, but you need to express what your inner feelings are and let them evaporate into the air.
Then suddenly one morning you will wake up and something has changed. You feel lighter, the sun is shining and you are beginning to feel like facing the world.
Whoa, you say, I shouldn’t feel this way I should still be sad, I have lost my best friend.
You may have lost your best friend, but now is the time to start remembering that furry friend with joy and love.
Think about all the good times you have had together, take time to remember the comfort your pet has given you and now release your pet.
Allow your pet to go in peace and to enjoy all the good things that pets enjoy when they cross over into that wonderful unknown place.
If you are feeling a need to do something to honor your pet, do it. Plant a tree or a shrub, write a poem, frame a collage of pictures showing your pet in happier times, be creative and smile.
Maybe this is the time to start thinking of finding a new friend, one that will not take your beloved pet’s place, but someone to start building new memories with.
Life is very short and very precious and there are so many animals out there in the world that have never had an opportunity to help anyone build happy memories.
Maybe it is time that you gave that little someone the opportunity.
Children and the loss of a pet, undoubtedly one of the hardest tasks for a parent of a child is to tell the child that its pet has died or is very sick and may die.
As a grownup we tend to look at things with adult eyes and an adult mind, we tend to forget that children look at things differently.
The greatest of all sins is to lie to your child in an effort of trying to save them from feeling sorrow or hurting.
Children are very strong; they tend to look at things far more black and white than we, as adults do.
They can and do experience sorrow and loss just as we do, but not with the emotional baggage that we carry around.
It is we, the parents that create the problems for children in our effort to protect them from things that happen in the real everyday world.
The loss of a pet needs to be handled differently for each age group.
The simpler the terms for a very young child the better, while an older child, who is more aware of the things around them will require a different set of terms.
If the pet in question is sick or very old and the need to end the pet’s life is nearing, start to prepare your child for that eventuality.
Young children have a difficult time picturing death and the idea that the pet won’t come back. This is when using the right words is extremely important.
Using the words “going to sleep” or “going away” can frighten a young child.
You understand the meaning of those words, but in a child’s mind they go to sleep every night and does that mean one-day they won’t wake up.
The same is true of “going away,” mommy and daddy go away sometimes does that mean they won’t come back?
It may be hard to realize, but children see death almost on a daily basis. They see dead birds, animals lying in the road that have been hit by cars, possibly their pet cat has brought home a dead mouse or bird so death is really not an unknown.
Television shows death in many ways, even cartoon characters die.
Children may not understand death as we do, but as a parent you cannot hide what is part of life.
If you avoid telling your child the truth you may be creating a deeper problem within the child.
If mommy or daddy won’t talk about it, it really must be bad so I won’t talk about it.
Burying the pet will not hurt as much as burying your child’s emotions regarding something that is as much a part of life as breathing is.
Be honest. If you have a religious faith use those principals to help illustrate the process of death.
When talking to young children let them ask questions, it is not necessary for you to go into great detail about death and dying. A brief explanation is usually all that is necessary.
Older children and especially young teenagers, who are going through enough emotional turmoil just growing up, need to be handled carefully. Allow them to express their grief in their own way.
Give them some freedom to deal with their emotions, be patient and be supportive, but not overly so.
If your pet is ill and you are aware that the big decision will soon be forthcoming. Help your child prepare.
Possibly make a photo album of pictures of their pet, plan a simple burial service and let them come up with the ideas of how to handle it.
If a burial is not possible, let them plant a tree, shrub or flower in honor of their pet.
Let the child have something concrete to remember their pet by.
Doing this allows the child to feel close to their pet and will give them something they can sit by and talk to.
It will feel as though their pet is nearby and will help ease their grief.
Talk about your pet, remember all the fun times you all shared with your pet.
Remember all the silly or naughty things your pet did, savor the memories.
When enough time has passed, create some new ones with another furry friend.
Whatever you do, just be truthful, be patient and allow each member of the family time to handle their grief in their own special way.
Euthanasia:If you are faced with making the decision to have your pet euthanasized, it can be the hardest thing you may ever have to do.
The thoughts and guilt that will fill your mind will be overwhelming.
Whatever the health situation is of your pet, you are never prepared to make that decision, no matter how well you know, you should make it.
When that time comes, most of us do two things, we pray for a miracle recovery or we pray for the pet to make the decision for us by passing in its sleep.
The thought of making the decision to take your pet’s life, for many of us, is like “playing God” and we do not like that choice.
Euthanasia is a painless death, it is accomplished by an injection of a strong dose of anesthetic. It takes only seconds to put the pet into a state of unconsciousness, then the breathing and the heart stops.
If you are having to consider this process for your pet, here are a few thoughts to hopefully help you make the right decision and to feel better about making it.
Is the current quality of my pet’s life a good one?
Is my pet eating and is it interested in what is going on around it?
Is there any pain associated with my pet’s condition?
Are there any options that I have not tried to help my pet?
Is my pet comfortable and aware of me?
Do I want to be present when the injection is
These are just a few questions to consider. Do not feel guilty regarding whatever choice you make.
Know in your heart that you will make the correct decision and whatever it is, IT WILL BE THE RIGHT ONE for you and your pet.
Your vet will be only to happy to give you counsel, but do not expect your vet to make the decision for you. It is your choice, your vet can only tell you what to expect if you decide not to and what will happen if you do.
Pets are very precious gifts, to some of us they are “our children,” to others they fill the empty space in their hearts that has been left by other humans, but to all of us, who are pet minded, they are the true definition of “unconditional love.”
If you need a “cybershoulder” go to the Internet and log on to "loss of a pet" and you will find many sites to help you.
There you will find like minded souls, people like you that have lost their ‘best friends” and need someone to talk to and who are very willing to listen to you.
In honor of our beloved pets I would like to leave with you these two poems, “A Pet’s Prayer” by Beth Norman Harris and “A Kitty’s Thanks,” author Unknown.
A Pet’s Prayer
Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.
Do not break my spirit with a stick for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.
Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail, when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.
When it is cold and wet, please take me inside for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements. And I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth. Though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land, for you are my god and I am your devoted worshiper.
Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry. I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life should your life be in danger.
And, beloved master, should the great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do not turn me away from you. Rather, hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest and I will leave you knowing the last breath I drew, my fate was safest in your hands.
Thank you, Beth Norman Harris
A Kitty’s Thanks
I know you’re feeling sad, but there is no need to be—
even if I can’t be there, purring and rubbing around
I’ve still got a windowsill, and a warm place in the sun.
Though no one really owns a cat, for me, your were the one.
I know my time had come and I know that you did, too.
Please don’t think you did me wrong.
You did what you had to do.
You may be feeling guilty that my life is at its end, but please don’t feel that way.
Through memories, you’ll always be my friend.