No matter how many people make comments of empathy for your loss of a pet, there are two words that seem to be personal to each of us that have had this experience: “despair and anguish”. We try to rationalize, emote and when we had to make that hard decision, even tell ourselves that we did the right thing; but through it all, we are feeling the incredibly powerful grief that simply cannot be explained. We walk through the physical actions of planning a pet memorial, even creating a cat or dog funeral, but in reality, we are existing in a state of shock and loss. Grief for our pets is very real and in many cases, stronger than those that we feel when we lose a human loved one. Whether you have chosen a pet cremation or a burial, you need to understand one thing: there is no timeline for grief and you need to allow yourself and your family all of the time that you personally require.
Those that understand your heartache and grief in losing your beloved pet will step forward to offer solace and even share their own stories. Our pets touch something in our inner souls that transcend the relationships that we have with people. They are completely devoted, forgiving and innocent; relying on their trust in us to do everything good for them. This, in itself, is just one of the reasons that we carry such heavy grief when we lose them. There is a kind of combination of heavy sorrow mingled with guilt that we have somehow let them down.
During this time, it’s important to surround yourself with those that understand what you are going through. Support groups can be incredibly beneficial, as they reinforce the fact that what you are experiencing is completely normal.
To address the feelings of vulnerability and frustration, you may want to take actions that help to soothe. You may want to focus on getting pet memorial keepsakes, donating to a local shelter to help other pets find forever homes, or speak with counselors on the varying layers of grief that you and your family will expect to feel. You will also need to understand that your logical mind may tell you one thing, but the emotions of the heart will force you to feel something else. Grief causes anxiety and there may be physical associations and changes that you are not accustomed to. You might go through extreme chills or being overheated, waves of nausea from light to severe and the desire to see your pet “just one more time”. These experiences can be almost overwhelming but they are part of the process of grief.
As days and then weeks go by, these extreme moments will become less and less. This is due to your final acceptance of the situation as well as the creation of a new “normal” of life without your beloved pet. It will take time, but eventually you will find that moments of sorrow will be replaced with memories of happiness in the life that you shared with your furred or feathered loved one. Give yourself and your family the time that you need and know that going through the grief demonstrates how much you loved them.