Death of a Pet
Pets are just like one of the family. In
fact, your dog, cat, bird or other beloved pet IS a member of your family. When
they pass on, it is normal to feel a deep sense of loss. Our article on Pet
Loss will help you deal with the death of a beloved animal as you learn that
your grief and sorrow are a normal reaction.
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our exclusive Feature Article:
Coping with the passing of a beloved pet
I struggled with the wisdom of writing a piece concerning pet loss. The passing of
our own beloved dog, Pegasus, is quite recent. Inasmuch as I endeavor to redirect
my thoughts, the grief has not dissipated. Although I have endured the deaths of three
other furry companions, Pegasus' absence has wrenched my heart in a distinct way.
The week preceding his departure--the very circumstances surrounding it--were arduous
to withstand. I cannot bring myself to divulge the heartbreaking details, and I know
I shall be unable to write this without shedding many tears.
When you have suffered the loss of a pet, it is difficult for observers--especially
those who would not be defined as "animal lovers"--to comprehend your grief. In an
effort to help, tactless and dismissive comments may be proffered: "It's just an animal,"
or "You can get another pet." They cannot comprehend your level of sorrow. On many
occasions, the grievers themselves do not understand and are taken aback by their
own emotional responses. There may be an internal struggle riddled with questions
such as, "Am I exaggerating here? Is this appropriate? Is this normal? Am I being
I have asked myself these very things amidst my sadness. Accompanying them is a thought
that I suspect many have had: "It is not as though a human being has died." However,
we must not join others in invalidating our own grief. Instead, we must confront it
and strive to be gentle with ourselves in the process.
The reality is, you have lost a family member, a companion that had become a significant
part of your life. However misunderstood, the bond forged between a pet and its owner
can be a powerful one. It is not an extreme reaction to deeply feel such a loss. Indeed,
it is both natural and expected, contrary to any dissenting views. Although patterns
of grief differ from person to person, do not be surprised if you experience guilt,
denial, depression, and anger. In my own situation, I felt we had not done all we
could for Pegasus and thus guilt ensued. This feeling was exacerbated by the fact
that we could not be at his side when he was euthanized. I was devastated by the reality
that in his final moments, he did not have the comfort of beholding the familiar faces
he had grown accustomed to over the course of ten years. I tormented myself thinking
that he probably felt frightened and confused, wondering why we had forsaken him.
In actuality I do not know how he felt, and thus I was needlessly placing upon myself
additional sorrow. When your mind begins to entertain certain thoughts--whether they
be steeped in depression, denial, anger, or guilt--you must challenge their validity
and put forth an effort, however painstaking, to not be consumed by them. If, for
example, you discover that you were in some way responsible for your pet's passing,
do not use that painful truth as a whip to mercilessly castigate yourself. Instead,
use it as a tool for improvement in the future. If you ever acquire another pet, strive
not to commit the same errors; strive to be an even better pet owner.
In all of this, I've had to learn to be gentle with myself. Although others were insisting
that I clear away Pegasus' belongings within a certain time frame, I refused to comply
and decided to set my own pace. There were many moments in which I could not bear
the sight of the backyard where he spent most of his days. The notion of going outside
to clear away his toys and bowls was unthinkable, therefore I waited until I had built
a certain degree of emotional fortitude before proceeding. Although I cried throughout,
I was able to do what was necessary.
There is nothing wrong with temporarily postponing certain difficult tasks or momentarily
setting aside grievous thoughts. We all require a respite, especially amidst such
stress and sorrow. However, if you are refusing to accept a painful event altogether,
you are most certainly steeped in denial. Although it is tempting, obstinately avoiding
reality will not help you move past the loss of your pet. It will only prolong your
Likewise, holding onto anger--whether it be toward yourself or other individuals you
feel are to blame for your pet's passing--only hinders your heart from healing.
Do not be afraid to seek help and comfort, especially if you find yourself mired in
persistent, negative emotions. There is no need to feel silly, ridiculous, or stupid
for reaching out for assistance. If you do not have family or friends who are willing
or able to help, consider other options such as counseling, support groups, or online
message boards designed for grieving pet owners to interact with one another and express
themselves freely. There are also many informative books available that can help you
understand and cope with your loss.
If you need to cry, do so. If you wish to write a poem, create a scrapbook of photographs
and memories, or make some sort of dedication in honor of your beloved pet, do so
as well. These and other such outlets will help you during this difficult time. Writing
this article is part of my own healing process.
It is my prayer that as we all seek to confront and deal with our grief, that we will
remember how blessed we were to have our pets. I also pray that we will be strengthened
to gaze beyond our mourning and consider the myriad blessings we continue to enjoy.
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