Each person is unique, different and very complex. Each person handles and deals with grief differently. Some people may sob gently at the funeral of a relative or friend, while someone else may cry hysterically. Some people hide their emotions, while others wear them on their sleeve. Let’s examine the common stages of grief. The same stages of grief that you feel after the death of a human are the same stages of grief you will feel after the death of your pet.
Grieving the loss of a pet, stage #1 – denial
This is self-explanatory. In this first stage of grief you will not acknowledge the death, you won’t accept it. You may feel it worse if the death of the pet was unexpected.
Grieving the loss of a pet, stage #2 – anger
You may become very angry at those closest to you, your family, your friends and the veterinarian who you may blame for the pet’s death. It is not uncommon to lash out at people and say terrible things and have no control over saying those things. Hopefully those close to you will understand and stand by your side.
Grieving the loss of a pet, stage #3 – guilt
This one might last a while. You feel guilty that you didn’t do enough to save the animal. Or you feel that someone else, most likely your veterinarian, didn’t did act quickly enough. You may not be able to afford expensive treatments that could have saved the pet and you feel quilt over that. If your dog was run over by a car you may feel guilty that you let him out in the yard. There are always unanswered questions.
Grieving the loss of a pet, stage #4 – depression
I cannot even type these words without tears flowing from my eyes when I think of Abby dying. I know that I will be facing this situation in the coming years and the depression will be overwhelming I’m sure. It is common, but that doesn’t make it feel better. With time and love from family and good friends, this too shall pass.
Grieving the loss of a pet, stage #5 – acceptance and resolution
This is where the healing will begin. You will reach a point when you are ready to acknowledge to yourself that your pet is gone. You already know it in your head, now you need to believe it in your heart.
The time will come when you will accept that your pet is gone. You will be able to remember your dog’s silly antics without bursting into tears. You will picture your cat perched in the window watching you leave for work, and you can picture those things without crying. When you can remember the good times, and be free of the pain of remembering, you have accepted it.
Is the process easy?
Sounds easy right? No way is it easy; no way could it possibly be easy. But it will happen to each of us, because we are pet owners and we love our pets. We will each deal with it and someday we will move on. If you cannot deal with the grieving process alone, do not hesitate talking to a professional.
Should you get a new pet?
As to rushing out and getting a new puppy or kitten immediately, that is a personal decision. Some people may find the new pet will fill the void and they will heal faster. Others feel that they may never want another dog or cat. After all, that would be another pet to grieve over someday.
Bonds that we form with our pets go deep and they are strong. That is what makes it so special while they are with us, and so hard when they leave us. The time will come and although we think we will be prepared, we won’t be. It will hit hard as a ton of bricks.
Preparation for the time to come
I have had to deal with this with other dogs in my life, dogs that I only had for short periods of time. Now I have a dog that is almost 13 years old, and we’ve been together since she was a little bundle of fur. This loss, when it happens, will be unbearable. I am trying my best to prepare ahead of time.
I know the day will come, its part of life and I will go through the stages of grieving the loss of a pet. I won’t let her suffer; I won’t keep her around just to make my life easier by not having to make that decision. I love her too much to do that to her. I’m prepared for the grief, I’m prepared for the loss and I’m prepared to eventually smile and remember the wonderful memories.