GRIEVING THE LOSS OF YOUR PET
Our pets live rather short lives, so it's inevitable that at one point we have to go through the grief of losing one of our best friends. The pain is very intense... don't let anyone make you feel silly or over sentimental. I know that when I lost Pucci, my Pomeranian, my constant companion for 15 years, I felt emptiness in my chest that still comes back whenever I think of him over a year later. Tears come to my eyes whenever I remember his last day and how difficult it was to say goodbye.
People who don't understand the bond one can develop with a pet may not understand your pain, but what matters is how you feel. Your feelings are very valid.
When you loose someone important in your life, grief is the normal response. When you grieve, you experience physical and emotional pain as you try to adapt to the loss. The grief that you suffer when you lose a pet has been recognized by psychologists to be the same as that experienced after the death of a person.
THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF AND... EVERYTHING ELSE
There is a lot out there about the five stages of grief, so I will describe them as well, but then, there are a lot more feelings that come that might confuse us even more as we go through them, but you have to recognize that these emotions are perfectly normal.
Guilt: You might feel responsible for your pet's death, particularly if you had to euthanize him or her. You may think you could have been more careful, taken better care of him... even that maybe it wasn't necessary and you could have saved him.
Denial: You have not accepted the reality of the death. You might feel it is unreal. You will see him out of the corner of your eye.
Anger: The grief might make you lash out at your family, your friends, the Veterinarian or the world in general. During this stage you might also feel guilt or fear.
Depression: This is a normal reaction created by the loss. You will feel intense sadness, drained and helpless. You will miss your life with your pet.
Acceptance: It will come when the changes brought upon by the loss are stabilized into your new lifestyle.
But then, you might also feel shock, anxiety, exhaustion, numbness, helplessness, fear, sorrow, despair, abandonment and loneliness, irritability. You might also feel it physically with muscle weakness, aches and pains, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, dry mouth, lethargy, a sense of detachment from everything else around you.
You might have trouble sleeping, have nightmares, or you might sleep too much.
When Pucci died I found myself treasuring even the hair on his brush, and I would hug every blanket he had slept on. If, on the other hand, you feel that having reminders of him or her hurt you, do yourself a favour and put everything in a box. Don't throw anything away yet.
Don't feel bad for wanting to stay home and think about your lost pet, or for wanting to be out and about so you won't have to be home and think about it. The intensity of the mourning process depends on many factors and nothing you feel can be considered abnormal.
Your age, the circumstances surrounding the death, the age of the pet, your relationship with the animal, are all things that will somehow affect your mourning process.
The most important thing to do is acknowledge your feelings. Do not hide your pain or try to be brave. Cry, scream, pound the floor, talk it out. Seek people that will understand what you are feeling. Ask your vet for information about bereavement groups. You are not alone.
Let your friends know what happened and talk to them about it. Some people find it useful to write about their pets, prepare a memorial of some sort, like a photo album.
You will heal with time. Give yourself permission to grieve... nobody but you knows what your pet meant to you. Find a way of expressing your feelings: talk, sing, paint, write. Be patient. Don't let anyone tell you how long your mourning should last.
Grief comes in waves. At first those waves come in fast and hard, but as time goes on, they become less intense and further apart.
Don't be afraid to get help and find someone to talk to. Pain can be debilitating.
There is a poem by Paul C. Dahm that helped me get through Pucci's loss and it can help you too. It's called the Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge is a beautiful place where our pets will be waiting for us until it's our time to cross the bridge. You might also find it helpful.
Grief is a confusing process. I believe it's even more so for pet owners because we feel people don't understand what we are going through. But we are not alone. Grieving for our beloved pets is perfectly normal. Remembering our pets and crying for them even years later, is perfectly normal. Don't let anybody tell you different.
About the Author:
Rebeca Rambal: If you want to read more stories and find very useful information about your cats and dogs, please visit me at http://www.yourpetsuniverse.com