Loss of a pet


Why do I feel this way when my pet dies?

When someone who has shared part of our life dies, we experience one of the strongest human emotions, grief. Grief is the natural response to bereavement, but the emotions we feel can leave us devastated and confused.

How we handle and understand it will determine whether the loss will completely overwhelm us, or whether we will find the ability to cope.

There are many steps in the grieving process, encompassing a number of physical, emotional and mental states.

With some people, these stages will be quite distinct - while with others they are not.

Some people work their way through grief in sequence while others struggle.

They seem to go forward and then go backwards many times as they " go through " the process of grieving.

It is not just a temporary state of mind - it is a whole process that may take anything up to the rest of your life to work through.

Most of us need to move through the various stages of our grief, in whatever order they come, so that we can finally begin to build a new life.

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1. Disbelief and Shock.

Shock is the first reaction to the news of death of a loved one, if that death is sudden it is often total disbelief.

Shock is the body's way of coping with any traumatic situation in life. It is a state of mind that allows us to gather our resources to cop with the following stages of grief.

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2. Physical symptoms.

The pressure of coping with bereavement may sometimes show in our bodies as headaches, asthma, flu-like symptoms, muscular pains or some other illness.

We may become apathetic and lacking in energy, but this isn't permanent.

A visit to the doctor may be wise, but it is often nature's way of telling us to "' take it easy for a while " until we are back on top of things.

Many people find it difficult to grieve in today's society, but we can grow as human beings if we are allowed to grieve fully.

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3. Loneliness.

It is important to realize that this is normal to feel low and alone, even when we have plenty of family and friends around us for support and comfort.

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4. Inability to cope.

Almost everyone feels lost with a sense of complete separation from the pet that is no longer alive. We feel really low in spirits and don't know what to do or where to go to find relief. Many people fear that they may be going " crazy " with their grief, this is a normal human reaction, part of the recovery process.
Memories of the friendship and pleasure that we shared with our pet pre-occupy us, and nothing else seems to give us comfort.
Now is the time to reach out to other people, it might not be easy but is important to keep trying

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5. It's okay to cry!

At this point, we are unable to hold in the intense emotion that the loss has created and it is perfectly natural for that emotion to find release through crying. This is normal, it happens to everyone - it's okay to feel emotionally devastated.

Holding in our emotions can make the recovery process longer or more difficult.

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6. Relief.

Many people closely involved with a pet that was ill for some time feel a sense of relief that the deceased's pain and suffering has finally ended. It's acceptable to feel relieved - it's quite normal. We can accept that relief without feeling guilty.

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7. Sense of guilt.

" But I only played with him yesterday ", " If I only had been there! " These are all typical reactions. When we have lost someone dear to us, we often take on the blame for what has happened even when it was completely out of our control.

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8. Recovering.

It does help if you can share your memories with others by talking about the life and death of your pet.

The funeral or cremation process has been designed to say that special farewell and to keep the memories of your pet with you and other family members.

Gradually we can now start picking up the threads of some of the activities we enjoyed before.

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How we can help those who are grieving the loss of a pet?

As supportive friends we need to:

  • BE THERE - just being there to listen and provide support will help.
  • BE AWARE - working through grief is a normal and necessary part of life.
  • BE CARING - even is we don't see it as such, our friends have suffered a deep loss.
  • BE PATIENT and non-judgmental.
  • BE READY to listen when the stories about their pet are told over and over again. This is a vital step towards complete recovery.

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How do other pets in the household cope?

It's important to remember that other household pets may be affected not only by the missing pet but also because their sensitivity picks up that everyone in the house is suffering in some way.

Ways pets show their distress.

  • They may go off their food for a while
  • They can be listless and lethargic
  • Some animals search for days trying to locate the missing pet
  • They may stay in the favorite spot of the missing pet waiting for them to return
  • Acts of anger or confusion

With your support they too will recover.

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