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Grieving the Loss of Your Pet
“Grief is the only price we pay for love.” -Queen Elizabeth II
Animals are amazing for many reasons. The most obvious is their unconditional love and companionship. Plus they are pure joy to observe and interact with. It doesn’t take much for them to become an important part of our lives.
My pets mean the world to me and I know many of you feel the same way. The loss of a pet is a terrible hurt, and it takes a grieving process to move forward.
This year has been a tough one on my family–two of our cats passed within months of each other. Both were with us for 17 years after being adopted into our family within months of each other.
Back to the Beginning
Seventeen years ago we experienced the sudden death of our beloved Maxx due to kidney failure at the young age of three. Several months later I decided it was time to move forward and adopt another cat. Maxx was such a sweetie and I knew it would be tough to find another cat that was as affectionate.
My daughter Kyleigh and I went to the local Humane Society and found Mushuu, a beautiful Color Point Siamese only three months old. Mushuu proved to be a lover–on his terms only and twice a day if we were lucky!
Two months later I was visiting a friend and she asked if I wouldn’t like another cat. She had a homeless kitty of about six months old hanging around. Wisconsin is not a place for animals to live outdoors in the winter. This cat was so friendly–how could I say no?
My son Zach named him Artemis Gordon. He was thin and full of curiosity, energy and most of all–attitude. He became Kyleigh’s best friend…and kept the title for seventeen years.
Both Mushuu and Artemis were fairly healthy cats for the majority of their lives. Over their last few years with us Mushuu developed a urinary tract disorder and Artemis suffered from irritable bowel syndrome.
Artemis moved to Madison with Kyleigh for his last two years. Kyleigh diligently sought care from a veterinarian to keep Artemis as healthy as possible, even giving him shots of vitamins and steroids as needed.
At the end we made the choice for each of our cats to have them euthanized due to deteriorating health. This is a difficult choice to say the least. But neither Kyleigh nor I wanted to see our beloved cats endure any more suffering.
A Few Tips For Grieving
Don’t Deny Your Pain
It is vital to allow yourself to grieve. Losing a pet is incredibly hard and you will miss them terribly.
You may go through different stages of grief. Denial, sadness, anger, loneliness, and guilt are all common emotions to experience after losing a pet. Allow whatever feelings you have to come and go–these feelings often feel like waves, and will eventually become smaller and less frequent.
After Artemis’ death Kyleigh stated I don’t remember life without him. She had spent almost 3/4 of her life with him. Our animals become part of our routine. It is really tough when you expect them to come to the door to greet you when you get home and they don’t.
Lean On Your Family & Friends
Reach out to the people who care about you when you’re feeling sad or angry. Talk about life with your pet–share the good times and your sadness. Plan a celebration of your pet’s life with people who are close to you.
If someone doesn’t understand what you are going through, ignore them and talk to others who do. Not everyone is able to connect with animals on a deep level. But don’t allow them to negate your loss.
Memorialize Your Pet’s Life
Journal about your memories and loss. Write poetry, create art and make a photo collage to help you through this process. Write a letter to them. Purchase an ornament for your Christmas tree and/or a lawn figurine that reminds you of him or her.
If you choose to have your pet cremated, keep the ashes in a container of your choice in a special location. Make a little shrine with his or her picture, the ashes, and anything else you like.
Burying your pet on your property or at a pet cemetery is another option. Mark the spot with a headstone or figurine that brings you peace. This gives you a spot to sit and talk to your furry friend.
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I recommend taking time before you consider adopting another pet. There isn’t a perfect amount of time for this–make sure you have adequately grieved your loss first. You want to look forward to beginning a relationship with a new pet and not continually be looking back at your loss.
The grieving process is unique for each individual. Nobody can determine how long you should grieve. This is your experience and it must progress at an individual pace. If you feel you need help moving forward consult a therapist or find a pet grief group. I found The Grief Support Center at Rainbow’s Bridge website quite helpful.
Please share your thoughts on experiencing the loss of a pet in the comments below.
Till next time, Sandra
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