In truth, the process of grief is not a cut and dried process that can be subdivided into strict categories. Rather, the grief process is a continuum, with each person experiencing it in a different way. Dividing the grief process in to "stages" helps the grief stricken person to understand that their experiences and emotions are normal. Some people will quickly progress through all the phases, while others appear to get "stuck" in a particular phase.
Briefly, the stages of grief are as follows:
SHOCK AND DENIAL
The reality of death has not yet been accepted by the bereaved. He or she feels stunned and bewildered-as if everything is "unreal."
The grief stricken person often lashes out at family, friends, God, themselves, the Veterinarian or the world in general. Bereaved people will also experience feelings of guilt or fear during this stage.
In this stage, the bereaved asks for a deal or reward from either God, the Veterinarian or the Clergy.Comments like "I'll go to Church every day, if only my pet will come back to me" are common.
Depression occurs as a reaction to the changed way of life created by the loss. The bereaved person feels intensely sad, hopeless, drained and helpless. The pet is missed and thought about constantly.
Acceptance comes when the changes brought upon the person by the loss are stabilized into a new lifestyle. The depth and intensity of the mourning process depends on many factors. The age of the owner, circumstances surrounding the death, relationship of the animal to the owner and to other family members, are all significant. Recently experiencing the death of a significant person in the owner's life can also affect how the pet's death is handled.
Usually, children recover more quickly, while the elderly take the longest. Sometimes, the death of a pet will finally enable the bereaved to mourn the loss of a person, whose death had not yet been accepted
DEALING WITH THE LOSS OF A PET
Here are a number of pet loss support resources. You only need to click on the name to be linked directly. Some of them have telephone hotline numbers to give you instant help. This support is free of charge except in some cases if the call is long distance.
This page will remain a work in progress and we will be adding to it on a continual basis. If you are aware of a pet loss site which you feel would be a benefit to our list, please feel free to submit it
If you have a friend suffering from the loss of a pet you can help their grieving process by sending them an email so they can access our Tribute Memorial site. They will thank you for doing it.
You Do Not Need To Suffer Alone
Feeling deep and overwhelming emotions when you lose a pet is not unnatural. No you are not going crazy. You just lost your friend and the fact they were not a human friend does no differ from the feeling of loss you may experience when you lose a best human friend.
Psychiatrists are finally recognizing that the loss of a pet can have the same impact as the loss of a human member of your family
I thought I was prepared emotionally when I lost Bijou. She had been sick for almost a year and slowly deteriorating. I did all the right things, I read as much as I could about the process of loss and I had been through it before with Fluffy the beautiful kitty I had for 22 years so I had experience
However, when it finally happened, I was paralyzed. It was almost 3 weeks before I wanted to even get out of bed. I am not given to dramatics and am a pretty strong person but losing her was not something I coped with easily. If it weren't for searching out support groups like those listed below, I would probably still be in bed
The stories and memories of our beloved pet are all similar. We had a living loving being in our life and which is no longer there. Whichever way you mourn, as long as you aren' t being self destructive, is the right way for you. There is no right or wrong way and don' t let anyone tell you differently.
Given time, healing will occur for a bereaved pet owner However, there are several things that the grief-stricken owner can do to help speed up the healing process:
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO GRIEVE
Only you know what your pet meant to you
Do not be affected by people who may say something like "It was only a pet" Anyone making such a comment has never experienced the love of an animal and can't relate to what you are feeling. Ignore them.
MEMORIALIZE your pet in some tangible way
When you are ready, celebrate the incredible relation you had with your pet. It allows the bereaved to express their feelings, pay tribute and helps with closure:
Make a photo collage and display it prominently
Have some article (toy, collar, dish) set up next to a favorite picture.
In my case as you probably read lighting a candle was my way of honoring Bijou
GET LOTS OF REST good nutrition and exercise
SURROUND YOURSELF with people who understand your loss
Let others care for you
Take advantage of support groups for bereaved pet owners
LEARN ALL YOU CAN about the grief process
Owners need to realize that what they are experiencing is normal
ACCEPT THE FEELINGS that come with grief
Talk, write, sing, or draw do whatever eases the pain
INDULGE yourself in small pleasures
BE PATIENT with yourself
No one can dictate how long mourning should last. Each of us is
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to backslide
It will ease eventually and your life will return to normal
Your grief is like waves in the ocean: at first the waves come in fast and hard, but as time goes on, the waves become less intense and further apart,
Don't be surprised if holidays, smells, sounds, or words trigger a relapse
DON'T BE AFRAID to get help
Pet loss support groups
(list of online support below)
CONSULT your own "Higher Power" either religious or spiritual It will give you peace of mind
What many people find hard to believe is that animals can form very firm attachments with each other. Even pets that outwardly seem to barely get along will exhibit intense stress reactions when separated. In fact, grieving pets can show many symptoms identical to those experienced by the bereaved pet owner. The surviving pet(s) may become restless, anxious and depressed. There may also be much sighing, along with sleep and eating disturbances. Often, grieving pets will search for their dead companions and crave more attention from their owners.
How can an owner help the grieving pet?
1. Keep the surviving pet(s) routines as normal as possible.
2. Try not to unintentionally reinforce the behavior changes.
If the pet's appetite is picky, don't keep changing the food. All that does is create a more finicky pet
Don't overdo the attention given to the pet(s) as it can lead to separation anxiety.
3. Allow the surviving animals to work out the new dominance hierarchy themselves. There may be scuffles and fights as the animals work out the new pecking order
4. Don't get a new pet to help the grieving pet(s) unless the owner is ready. It will backfire unless the owner is emotionally ready for a new pet.
People still grieving may not have the energy for it just yet
Should the owner let the surviving animals see and smell their dead companion?
There is no evidence that doing so will help the surviving pet(s), but some people claim that it does. Usually, all it accomplishes is to make the owner feel better. Therefore, if the owner wants to have the surviving pets "say good-bye," then they should
Many people do not realize how traumatic and confusing
death can be for a child. Although children tend to grieve for shorter periods of time, for some their grief is no less intense than that experienced by adults. Children also tend to come back to the subject repeatedly so extreme patience is required when dealing with the grieving child.
Some helpful tips for helping the grieving child include:
Giving the child permission to work through their grief:
*Be aware of your child's curiosity
*tell their teacher about the pet's death
*encourage the child to talk freely about the pet
*give the child plenty of hugs and reassurance
*discuss death, dying and grief honestly
Never say things like "God took your pet," or the pet was "put to sleep"
The child will learn to fear that God will take them, their parents or their siblings or the child could become afraid of going to sleep
Another mistake you can make in discussing the passing of your pet with children is to dwell on the concept that the pet was old. Think of how it must sound to a 10 or 12 year-old boy when you tell him that 13-year-old Brandy died of "old age". If you fail to stress the difference between the life span of an animal and that of a human you could be putting your child through unnecessary emotional or psychological trauma.
When you are consoling a bereaved child, the first thing you must communicate to the child is that he/she is not alone. One of the best ways to do this is with a gentle holding of hands and don't ever underestimate the power of a hug.
According to age and what you feel your child can comprehend include the child in everything that is going on with age
If your discussions turn out to be no more than a time to hold each other and weep, that's okay. It's natural. This is the time to express your loss and crying is an important part of the grief process. As time passes your and your children will be able to talk about your pet without the watershed of tears.
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The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep
Then will you do what must be done
For this - - the last battle - - can't be won
You will be sad I understand
But don't let grief then stay your hand
For on this day, more than the rest
Your love and friendship must stand the test
We have had so many happy years
Through happiness, laughter, sadness and tears
You wouldn't want me to suffer so
When the time comes, please, let me go
Take me to where to my needs they'll tend
Only stay with me until the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me
Although my tail its last has waved
From pain and suffering I have been saved
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