“We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.” ~ Irving Townsend.
It is Normal to Grieve A Loss of A Pet
Grieving the loss of a pet is often unexpected because it is not an accepted societal construct. But it is a normal reaction to loss. Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of the pet, but also the loss of their involvement in your life. Our pets are interwoven into our lives more completely in some cases than friends and extended family.
The loss of a walking partner, the routines, and unique interactions you have may make pet loss difficult. It is normal for grief to seem to come in waves as actions, locations or behaviors trigger it. Each individual will take a unique path of grieving, and there is no set timeline or method. You may experience denial, anger, depression, shock and eventually acceptance. Grief cycles and comes in waves when it is least expected, this too, is normal.
Types of Grief:
There is not one type of grief. In cases where death is prolonged, owners may experience anticipatory grief, whereas, in a sudden traumatic loss, owners may experience shock and denial. In most cases of loss, grief is complicated by previous bereavement. It is normal for a pet’s passing to stir up previous feelings of loss that had presumably healed.
Grief can have physical, cognitive, intellectual, social and spiritual manifestations. This too is normal, as long as it’s not preventing you from completing your obligations and routines. Often owners talk about waking up suddenly because they thought they felt or heard their pet. In other cases they say, “I know they are gone but I still open the door and call for them to come in at night.” This is normal and with time, will become easier.
Coping with Grief:
The first step is to give yourself permission to grieve the loss. Recognize the process may be painful, but the memories of what you had can be good. By discussing and preparing for the end of life choices with your veterinarian, family and other support networks, you can make the loss less traumatic.
Many owners feel that memorializing their pet is an important step. Consider making and album or scrapbook. You can donate to a cause, volunteer in their honor, or plant a tree at their favorite park. There are many ideas out there. In cases where owners were not able to say goodbye it is still not too late. Write them a letter and read it out loud to them. Read poetry about pet loss or write your own. Have a memorial service. Even if you don’t have their ashes or body you can bury a time capsule of pictures and favorite toys.
For those who are angry or feel despair towards someone or some aspect of the loss journal your feelings. This can help you collect your thoughts and monitor how you are doing. If you are feeling anger, write down your feelings and then hold on to the letter for a few weeks before you send it. Sometimes in acute grief and shock our words do not truly express what we feel and this allows time for reflection.
If you feel like talking to someone would be helpful, or are looking for more information, please follow the links below: