When It Comes to Losing a Pet We All Mourn Differently, And That’s OK
This is a companion piece to “Some of Us Can’t Handle Euthanasia, And That’s OK.” These pieces were written to emphasize the fact that we’re all individuals — and that the way we deal with death, loss & grief will vary greatly.
Some of us can put on a brave face and conquer anything after the loss of a pet, and some of us can’t. For those of us who have struggled to cope with the loss of a pet there’s one thing that’s certain: grief changes. One day may be horrible and the next a little less so, but then one little trigger can bring it back with a vengeance.
What works to deal with grief and loss for one person may or may not work for you, but please don’t ever feel that you’re grieving too much for a pet. They are part of the family, and their loss causes intense grief. Many of us have felt that way, and it’s important to realize you are not alone.
When it comes to losing a pet we all mourn differently, and that’s OK.
They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite. – Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince
Grief Might Make You Feel Completely Isolated
I know there’s the five famous stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance), but not everyone goes through those. I know I certainly don’t.
My grief starts with a feeling of complete isolation. I’m never in denial – I know very well what just happened, but the tremendous sense of loss makes it impossible for me to feel like I can just “hang in there” and deal with situations in a normal matter.
It’s the weird, surreal like feeling of being disconnected from anything but grief – yet everyone else around you is just going on as usual – as if nothing has changed. But for you everything has changed.
Everyone else is laughing, telling jokes & going on like nothing happened while you’re unable to move past your loss. It’s happened to me many times, and that feeling of being alone and isolated from your “normal” world can make the pain ten times worse.
The difference is not about emotions, those are exactly the same, but my navigation through the loss and the day is completely different. – My GPS is Off: Oh Melvin
I can’t tell you that it’ll go away in 5 days, and I can’t tell you that it’s going to get better. But what I can tell you is that it will change. The feelings you have today may be different tomorrow, or they may be different in a month from now – but they will change.
I’d have great days followed by OK days, and then one little trigger would bring back all those feelings of grief in an instant. For me it was evenings that usually brought back those feelings of grief and isolation. For 10+ years I’d walked my dog Carter every evening, and now he was gone.
Maybe you’ve had similar feelings, and maybe not. We all deal with loss differently, and whether it’s for a human family member or pet please remember that your grief is real. It doesn’t matter if it fits into what others think of as normal – that grief is yours.
When it feels too painful to exist, knowing that Kelsey is gone, all you can do is distract yourself until time passes. Watch movies. Do things that require concentration, like playing an instrument or practicing a sport. Now isn’t the time for long, silent walks—unless long, silent walks are what you need. You could volunteer at an animal shelter or you could avoid other dogs completely. Whatever you need to do, sob or paint or run, is the right thing to do. – What To Do when You Lose a Dog
If You’re Having a Tough Time Dealing With the Loss Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with grief don’t be afraid to reach out to someone close that’s able to listen and not judge. Sometimes just having someone to share your feelings with can help, and it can make you feel less alone in your grief.
There are also support groups available for dealing with the loss of a pet. You can reach out and connect with others going through similar situations. It’s important to know that you’re not alone – that grief your feeling is real, and you’re completely right to be feeling it.
It’s an odd thing grief. We fear it, dismiss it, try and avoid it, occasionally have brushes with it, and most often times without warning, it invites itself into our lives. No welcome mat but it comes nonetheless. – Anatomy of a Grieving Dog Mom
Grief is a tough subject for people to deal with – both for those going through it and those that are trying to offer support. Although people generally have good intentions there are some people in your life that might not offer the kind of support that’s immediately helpful.
I’ve been told things like “why not just get another dog” or “it’s been a couple of weeks already.” Although they certainly didn’t mean anything negative by it those things hurt, and they made me more apt to grieve alone. Unfortunately grief isn’t the easiest of subjects to talk about, and those that try to offer support may end up saying something stupid.
No one really wants to see grief. No one really wants to talk about it. At least not after a certain “acceptable” point. Plus, all that grief talk is aimed at people grieving other people. There’s practically no wiggle room in that journey for grieving pets. The next day: “So, when are you going to get another dog?” – The Grief Chapter
Your Grief Will Change With Time
The bad news about losing a pet is that the pain stays for a long time. There isn’t a set number of tears or bad days before that you have to endure before it gets better. We all deal with it in our own ways, and for some of us it takes a long time to get back to a feeling of being somewhat ‘normal’ again.
What I can tell you is that what your feeling today will change. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week or maybe next month – but it will change. Grief is always changing. Some days it pops up as soon as we wake up, and others it might not rear it’s ugly head til bed time, but it’s always there in some capacity.
It might take a week, it might take 6 months, or it might take 6 years – but your grief will change. Until then please remember that you are not alone. Many of us have been there, and there’s plenty of people going through something similar right now. If you’re feeling lost don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, 25 Quotes About Losing a Dog