Pet Loss – The Devastion and The Healing After

300x180“When your heart is broken after the death of your beloved pet, it is hard to find hope or to adjust to daily life without your animal friend.”  That’s how I felt after the loss of my little Dachshund Turby I mentioned in the last post.

A capture of this book description Healing Pet Loss: Practical Steps for Coping and Comforting Messages from Animals and Spirit Guides (Healing Pet Loss Series) by Marianne Soucy caught my attention as I was searching to find some guidance. This Book was written to help heal your heart, bring comfort, inspiration, and suggestions for coping with situations surrounding pet loss.

I had not expected such amazing comfort and spirited uplift reading Marianne’s reassuring words. She has a gift to use her spiritual wisdom in providing concrete steps that help in the healing. It was even uplifting. I wish I had prepared myself better while my dog was failing and his death nearing.

We anticipate intense sadness but not an emotional conflict or guilt that might surprise you as it can different from losing a close family member or friend. This is why I want to share some insights I gained from various sources to help you when facing a loss of your pet or when comforting others.

To lose a pet is most devastating!

Whether the loss is sudden or the result of an illness or debilitating condition, it is a hard reality, often overwhelming. The impact could be even  greater than the loss of a family member or friend.

“How could the loss hurt even more than the death of my grandmother? Am I the only one who feels this way?” I asked myself while feeling guilty, confused and embarrassed.

A moving article: The Death of Pet Can Hurt as Much as the Loss of a Relative by Joe Yonan, the Washington Post’s Food and Travel editor, reassured me that I was not alone in feeling the conflicts. Yonan wrote:

I’m no stranger to death. I was a mess of anger and confusion when my father, suffering the aftermath of a stroke, took his last gasps one day in 1995, his children gathered around his hospital bed. And three years later, the death of my sweet, beloved sister Bonny after a withering battle with brain cancer was nothing short of heartbreaking. Yet somehow, and much to my distress, the death of my dog seems even harder. I haven’t felt grief quite like this since, well, the death of my previous dog five years ago.

In his further search to better understand his emotions, Yonan found that multiple studies revealed different answers to reactions of the death of a companion animal: “. . .  it can be ‘just as devastating as the loss of a human significant other,’ not quite as severe, ‘far more intense’ or, well, just about the same.”

The Healing

You can’t sleep, you can’t stop crying. You are so scared that tomorrow no one will understand why you are such a mess and that someone might think she was ‘just a dog’. All you want is your best buddy back.  You may find yourself very alone.

It takes time to heal. Experienced veterinarians understand that pet owners’ grief vary widely in intensity and longevity. Complex emotions are natural reactions to the known stages of grief that may involve  guilt, denial, anger and depression, though not necessarily in that order.

You will find many coping strategies in the literature. I summarized a few to point out reassuring directions and understanding to support the natural healing process:

  1. Feel the pain and celebrate the love you shared. Have a loving conversation of all the memories together with your pet. Write a journal or letter. And allow your tears to flow.
  2. Seek support from people who have experienced the loss of their loving pet and know what it feels like. They will be most understanding.
  3. Avoid people who never had a pet. Or, if they did, they were not closely connected. Though well-intentioned, they might think that losing a pet cannot be such a big deal and urge you to: “get over it!”  Such well-meaning support will only enhance your loneliness.
  4. Understand that intense and often conflicting emotions during your initial grief is natural and normal. If it becomes unbearable or you just can’t get a handle on your emotions, seek support from your vet, or a counselor who specializes in grieving pet owners, or contact a Pet Loss Support Hotline.

Realize that losing a pet and the healing process that follows is also a loving and deeply spiritual journey of a fun life you shared and can celebrate. Each time I envision Turby’s happily wagging tail and his bright and big brown eyes begging for that special treat, I smile.

Here are a few additional resources I found most helpful:

The death of pet can hurt as much as the loss of a relative by Joe Yonan

Pet Grief Recovery – The Stages of Grief

Coping with a Dog’s Death   (Cesars Way)

Read more:

The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, Inc. (APLB)

American Veterinary Medical Association: Pet Loss Support Hotlines

Coping with the loss of a pet explains well the stages of grieving, though they may vary with each individual.

A wonderful resource to seek comfort and reassurance to help healing after a pet loss. It offers a newsletter, blog, articles all about grief and stories