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> Grieving The Loss Of A Pet, Article by Julie Alexrod
post Dec 30 2004, 12:51 AM
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Group: Pet Lovers
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This is another article I found that was helpful to me and I hope will be for you too.

Grieving the Loss of a Pet
When a parent, spouse, child or someone close to us dies, our loss is usually met with sympathy, comfort, and offerings of sincere condolence. We are allowed to grieve. We are allowed to cry. We are allowed to experience our emotions. But talk to the millions of pet owners who have had a dog hit by a car or a terminally ill cat euthanized and you will hear quite a different story. Many will tell you that most people did not understand the depth of their grief. Some even experienced the gross insensitivity of a comment like, "Why don't you just get another pet?" Mourning a pet may not only be painful due to the loss itself, but deeper as well due to the potential loneliness of this type of grieving.

Why Are the Feelings So Painful? When we are grieving the loss of a beloved pet, we are actually mourning several losses at the same time. These include: The loss of unconditional love: Our pets provide us with emotional responses that are uninhibited by concern for how their expression appears to others. Many of our human relationships aren't that simple; they can be riddled with anxiety about rejection and other fears that often dictate how we behave and what we share. Our pets do not judge insecurity or imperfection. They are all-accepting in ways few humans can achieve.

The loss of a protégé: Having a pet is much like being a parent. We are responsible for another life and often go to great lengths to ensure our pet's physical and emotional comfort. Numerous activities revolve around our animal companion's needs. We hire pet walkers and sitters to provide our furry friend with company or exercise. We go to dog parks to enhance our pooch's life with social activity. All are efforts to provide our charge with the best caretaking possible. Consequently, the loss of a pet can feel like the loss of a child.

The loss of a "life witness": Not only do our animals provide us with their uninhibited emotional expression, but they also allow us to express parts of ourselves that we may never let other humans see. They observe our weaknesses, our victories, and move through years of our lives with us. During periods of upheaval, they often provide us with security, stability and comfort.

The loss of multiple relationships and routines: Each role that the pet occupied (e.g., friend, child, significant other) as well as each role that we as owners took on is a loss. We must say goodbye to feeding time, walking routes, and all the aspects that made up our practical routines. We must not only say goodby e to the physical activities, but to the reflexive way we called to our companion when we wanted comfort and love. These good by es all contribute to the time and patience needed to grieve the loss of a pet.

The loss of a primary companion: For some of us, our pet was our only social companion in the world. We may not have had any other close contacts, due perhaps to depression, anxiety, or a debilitating physical illness. We relied exclusively on our pet for support and love.

What Might Make My Grief More Complicated? As if the range of losses just listed was not enough, grief may be complicated by any number of additional factors, including: Guilt: This is the primary stumbling block to a healthy grieving process. Did I do enough? Or "If only I…" Whether the pet died after a short or long struggle, many of us wonder if there were routes not explored, medications not taken, surgeries not performed. If we were unsure about whether all options were exhausted, then residual guilt may hinder moving through grief effectively.

Euthanasia: Many of us are called upon to make the excruciating decision to end the life of a beloved pet. We spend our lives ensuring the health of our companion, and while euthanasia may end our pet’s suffering, it contradicts every instinct we have. Grief is further complicated if we are plagued by doubt - was it really the right time? Was he really getting worse? Questions like these may never be answered. Furthermore, we are left with the image of our pet as he or she died, which can be overwhelming.

Cir%%stances surrounding the loss: If our pet died in a way we perceive could have been avoided, the duration and severity of guilt can be intensified. "I should have closed the screen door tighter so he couldn't run into the street" or "I wish I had noticed her symptoms sooner, because she'd be alive today if I had." Such comments only serve to punish us even further.

Expectations that mourning will end at a particular time: One of the ways grief gets derailed is when we or those we turn to for support impose a timeline. "I should be better by now," or "Why is she still so sad?" Not having the necessary time to mourn, which varies for each of us, creates emotional pressure to "get better quickly." This ultimately results in the opposite of what we're seeking - the process and all the feelings take longer to subside.

Reawakening of an old loss: A companion animal's death may remind the owner of a previous loss, animal or human. An unresolved loss complicates the current mourning process. It is then important to not only mourn the lost pet, but to take this opportunity to achieve closure on earlier losses.

Resistance to mourning: This complication often arises out of our existing style of coping. Some of us may suppress feelings so that we don't appear weak. We may fear that the tears may never stop if we allow them to begin. Whatever we use to defend against our true emotional experience will complicate our natural progression of grief. Many of these complications have important functions. Staying conflicted about the death of our pets often binds us to our deceased companion, keeping us closer to the time when he or she was alive. Letting go of grief can also be mistakenly interpreted as a betrayal, that trying to feel better is equated with trying to forget. That is not the goal of grieving. We'll always love our pet. Healthy grieving is getting "through," not over, a loss.

What Can I Do? There are several things you can do to aid in the mourning of your loss: Be patient and kind with yourself! This is the first key to effectively dealing with your grief. Our losses are real, painful, and evoke a variety of feelings and memories. Any time you find yourself wishing you were better, wanting to be "past" it, remind yourself that your emotional processing has no set endpoint. You're in mourning and, by pressuring yourself, you only make yourself feel worse. Find an ally: Find at least one safe person you can talk to about your loss. If you can't identify someone who is safe, call your veterinarian and ask for the name of another pet owner who recently experienced a loss, or look into joining a support group specifically for pet loss. . .

Conduct an overview of your pet's life: You can do this by writing down your thoughts and feelings or by sharing your pet's story with your ally. When did you get your pet? What are some special memories? What were his or her personality features? What will you miss the most? This overview helps solidify the things you want to make sure not to forget.

Engage in rituals: Humans have prescribed ways to mourn. We have funerals, ceremonies, and anniversaries of the beloved's death acknowledged. These rites are designed to help us grieve and to remember our loved ones. Create your own rituals for your pet! Have a ceremony in the dog park. Hold a service at home or in a place special to you and your pet.

Dispose of possessions gradually: Often, we encounter the food bowl, bed, or blankets and are unsure of what to do with them. The first step can be to move them to a different location from where they usually were. For instance, take the bed out of your bedroom. This helps the transition, and lets you move the items before you remove them. When you are ready, put your pet's tag on your keychain. Seal his or her belongings in a trunk. Donate the bed to an animal organization.

Memorialize your pet: Do a tree planting or sow a garden. These can be living tributes that will continue as reminders for years to come. This is a sorrowful time. While we may be compelled to find strategies to move us through this period, there will be occasions when we won't have answers to our painful questions or activities to quell our longings. What would your pet do if he or she found you sad and in pain? The answer is clear: give you love, give you comfort, and stay with you as long as it took. We can all take a lesson from our animal friends."

Written by Julie Axelrod
Date published: 3/16/01
Found at:
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Karen Nilson
post Mar 7 2006, 05:56 PM
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Group: Pet Lovers
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Joined: 7-March 06
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I am not sure of who i am writing too....but thanks for having this site and helping me grieve. i miss my dog so much that my insides feel like they are going to explode. i want him back, but i know this is normal and i must allow myself to grieve....so who ever is reading this thanks....
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Sidney's Buddy
post Mar 22 2006, 10:16 AM
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Group: Pet Lovers
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Joined: 21-March 06
From: Westchester County, New York
Member No.: 1,481

I am sure if this will post. I have never posted anything before.

This article does help a bit. I lost my little lover a week ago and I'm a mess. Just going through the motions. I've had a lot of cats, but Sidney was different. I still can't believe that he is gone. My wife adored him too but she is having a much easier time with this than I am. People all tell me to get another cat as if that will help. Maybe later, but for now it is too depressing to think that I could replace my cat in this way. He was an unbelievably wonderful cat. I do miss him so.

Sidney, Bergie you know that you are the light of my life. We will miss and love you forever.
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post Apr 9 2006, 10:30 AM
Post #4

Group: Pet Lovers
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Joined: 7-April 06
Member No.: 1,530

I lost my sweet little baby girl pom Lucky April 7. I felt like my brain and my heart will explode and I sooo wished they should have. Yes they are not human, but why do they take so much part of us when they leave? I've never felt this pain before and this is the worst ever.

BTW thank you for sharing that article. I wanted to let you know that it made me feel better but the pain has not subsided a bit. God bless you!
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Zooey's Dad
post Apr 11 2006, 02:10 PM
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Group: Pet Lovers
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Joined: 10-April 06
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This is a very good article, thanks for posting it.

We spend our lives ensuring the health of our companion, and while euthanasia may end our pet’s suffering, it contradicts every instinct we have. Grief is further complicated if we are plagued by doubt - was it really the right time? Was he really getting worse?

That nailed it for me. Making the decision to put Zooey down, after years of raising, and months of nursing thru illness, went against all my instincts. It almost feels like I betrayed him.

My friends and the vet all say I made the correct decision, but these feelings linger.

Edit. It took several days, but I was able to work through the guilt feelings of making the decision to put him down. Now, I am able to feel grief about missing my companion, without the additional stress of the decision. I found it was important to work through these issues separately, and resolve the guilt so I could properly grieve.
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post Oct 6 2006, 11:08 AM
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Group: Pet Lovers
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Joined: 6-October 06
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I just spent a little while reading on your web site, not sure what I was looking for.

Last night I found one of my 23 year old cat, Kitsy Boo Boo, slumped over in the laundry room. I knew what was going on since I have been blessed with many critters and have lost so many. I noticed over the last 2 weeks that she has been getting weak in her back legs. I picked her up and she was still with me.

I knew that the only thing I could do at that time was hold her close to me all night. I gave her drinks throughout the night. Her favorite thing was laying next to me in bed so thats what we did. First thing this morning a call to my vet for an emer. appointment and found out she was in kidney failure. Dr said they could give her vitamins and fluids and she would pass on her own. I decided the best thing was to put her to sleep I could not be selfish. I held her tight to my chest while they injected her and spoke softly in her ear telling her I was there and she was a good kitty and I loved her so much.

I once read an article a long time ago from a pets point of view to "stay with me when its time, so I can be comforted with your presence" was one phrase that stuck with me all these years. When it has been time I have done so. I don't regret it at all. They have given me so much unconditional love all the years they have owned me as I call it. A few times my little friends passed in my presence on their own. I have them all privately cremated and bring them back to our home and place them in our bedroom.

The pain never goes away. It stings just as much as the day its happened when I visit them and I cry just as hard as that day. My memorial area in not out in the open for everyone to see, I actually have them in my dresser for my eyes only when I feel the need to "see" them. "Rusty" my pooch who was my first loss, "Meoux" my first kitty, and "Chelsea" my other miracle dog, she is another story all on her own. Kitsy will soon join her life long friends and be happy, till the time I so strongly feel that when my time comes to an end on this earth I will join them all in one heck of a reunion. Having my extended family was and is a wonderful experience even with the excruciating pain when lost. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Thanks for creating this site to have the chance to blab on and on and thanks to all those who have posted. Us animal lovers are not alone.
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Ida Rose\...
post Oct 18 2006, 01:19 PM
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Group: Pet Lovers
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Joined: 18-October 06
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This article's reference to euthanasia being against your caregiving instinct was totally dead on (no pun intended...sorry).

I have just lost our Senior Siamese rescued girl, Ida Rose. I got her from a foster home when she was turned into a shelter as a 10 year old lady because her "owners" getting rid of her b/c they were expecting a baby. Didn't they know they already had one?

From there, that first year w/me, she kept getting URI; then realized her inabiliyt to walk well b/c of severe arthritis. Also, right after getting her from foster home and she started URI symptoms almost immediately, vet realized she was anemic - b/c so infested with fleas when she weighted 14 lbs.

Once on proper meds and supplements, and fleas gone! she really blossomed. Mean, cantankerous, did not like Nickie, my first cat presumably as he was really "Peppy La Pew" w/her - he really loved her. After Ida Rose came and got better we were bestowed with a 6 mos. "kitten", Lucy Belle - who really took to Ida Rose as her "auntie". This TG/Xmas would have marked our 4th holidays together.

She was diagnosed a week ago today with renal failure. Vet thought she could get out of it w/IV flush so she stayed at vet's w/IV up until Monday night when I brought her home. I visited her 3x/day b/c I knew how much she hated the vets (foster home put her in their vets on frequent basis, "dropped her off" on way to work and picked her up in the evening) It was equally bad b/c she really did seem to be rallying. Monday morning she ate like a trooper - almost like her old self - being tempted with the shrimp I brought her and Elegant Medley fancy feast. But at lunchtime she was just listless. When I came back right after work she was laboring very hard to breathe, panting, and her back legs weren't functioning and lying in her own urine.

I took her home, and after some exasperating miscommunication on vet staff part, did get 2 vet techs to come to my house to euthanize her. Was very traumatic b/c she was so uncomfortable, I had to hold her in a very specific position on my lap to help her be somewhat comfortable. At least I thought to ask tech to give her something for her pain before I left the vets. They came, and the really bad part was that she had to get stuck various places (why did they remove IVport? like I asked them? sheesh) but luckily got a vein in her thigh while I held her and I feel terrible she did feel a pinch. But like the information posted on this site, she passed away almost instantly, finally feeling no more pain. And she did look relieved.

And she was home, in her place on her Mommy's bed w/me holding her.

My heart aches; I never thought I would miss her this much - the cat who had bit me in the nose, was very cantankerous, etc. but who during almost the past 2 years made sure she snuggled right up against me just before dawn and purr very, very loudly - then once I was awake walk back to her spot and go back to sleep. My other 2 cats miss her; especially Lucy Belle, the littlest. We buried her yesterday, the place had a casket for her so I was able to take that home and place her in it w/her things, and let Nickie and Lucy say goodbye too as we went through Rite I in the Book of Common Prayer.

Thanks for letting me blather on this site - I am just so at a loss - and I do feel guilty. I just hope she knows I was left doing the only kind option I had left for her. I am so sad to come home and not have her coming down the stairs as fast as she could to greet me and let me pick her up, while she purred and kissed me on the chin.

Anyway thanks again - I hope that no one feels this sense of loss. Today, now back at work, I actually feel worse than yesterday. Probably b/c Monday night and Tuesday at graveyard I was still doing something for her. Now I do nothing but hope for a sign that she understands how much I will forever love her.

Vets office did send flowers - a single rose - to the house. found this a.m. on way to work; boy did that start the waterworks going again...
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post Dec 27 2006, 05:26 PM
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Group: Pet Lovers
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Joined: 26-December 06
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I feel I betrayed my dog when she quit breathing during her heart attack and i did mouth to mouth and she came back. She came back with a stroke and i feel so guilty I tried to save her when she had been suffering from heart disease and kidney failure. It just tore my heart out to see her so air hungry that I had to help her breathe. She gave me a wierd look when she came back like why the heck did you do that I was at the rainbow bridge waiting to go over!

How utterly stupid and foolish of me to prolong her sufferning by giving her mouth to mouth. The visions of her being air hungry are haunting me and I just wanted her to be comfortable. I stroked her head with water and blew on her face then she quit breathing and I started giving little puffs of air to save her. When she was still air straved and couldn't get up, i decided she was suffering so much to take her to the 24hour ER clinic that WAS thankfully open on the christmas holiday at midnight. It was a nightmare and the guilt of causing her to live one more minute while suffering has haunted me for days. I should have let her just die in my arms and it was mean for me not to let go of her and make her live another 45 minutes of suffering. I pray she forgives me as I just wanted to make her feel better.

Miss Ellie Simpson 03/07/97-12/26/06
She lives forever wrapped in love deep within my heart.
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