I’m writing this post with a heavy heart. Recently, my dog and loyal friend, Teddy, passed away. He was a very important part of our family. It’s a particular shock that his passing happened so suddenly. He was getting on in years, but he didn’t have serious health issues. He looked like a “young pup” and had an abundance of energy until the end. At least that is one small thing I can be grateful for…his lack of suffering.
The loss of a beloved pet can be emotionally devastating. There’s simply no way to sugar coat that reality. As they say, grief is the price of love. The more we love, the deeper we grieve, but the rewards of that love are well worth it.
Deeply-feeling, highly sensitive people may experience an even longer lasting feeling of grief and loss than normal. Thus, it’s important that we have a strategy to help us through these difficult times. I would like to give you some of the things that are helping me and my family during this difficult time.
- Don’t minimize your loss. While we all know that pets have shorter life spans than we do, and that we will outlive them, it’s always devastating when the time comes. I’ve had pets all my life, and this NEVER gets easier! A family pet represents a significant emotional investment in your life. Don’t ignore the importance of this loss or be embarrassed by it. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself enough time to work through your feelings.
- Share your feelings and seek comfort from others. Talk about your feelings with your family and friends, especially those who are animal lovers. It’s okay to cry if you need to. Don’t be ashamed to seek professional help if you need it.
- Let go of the guilt! After the loss of a pet, many pet owners will somehow find a way to feel guilty, regardless of how well they cared for their pet. You may have thoughts like…”I should have known this, or I should have done this, or I wish I could have afforded better care, or I wish I had spent more time with my pet, and on and on. These feeling are normal but not helpful at all. Beating yourself up will not change anything and will only make you feel worse. Instead, trust that you did the best that you could for your pet. Understand that your pet is out of pain. You are the one in pain now, and now is the time to take care of YOU.
- Make the time to rest. Since emotional and physical energy are easily depleted by grief, it’s extremely important to exercise self-care when coping with intense emotions. Be sure to re-charge your batteries by having enough alone time, eating well, and getting proper rest.
- Remember the good times. It was very helpful when my family and I looked at photos and videos of Teddy. It was comforting to reminisce about the fun times and to see him when he was at his happiest and healthiest. While I wish Teddy could have been with us longer, I am extremely grateful for the time that we did have. Even though I feel REALLY sad right now, I would do it all over again in a heatbeat. All those wonderful years of love and companionship were so worth it!
- Have a proper ending. A proper ending for your pet is a very individualized thing. It’s important that you do what’s comfortable and appropriate for you. We decided on cremation. Teddy’s ashes are in a small wooden box in a glass bookcase in our family room, along with a photo of him. This was a fitting tribute to Teddy that my family was comfortable with.
Good bye Teddy, our sweet boy! Thank you so much for the wonderful memories. Thank you for being such a loving companion for the past fourteen years. We love you and miss you already! I have faith that I will someday see you again. I have to believe that!
When our pets pass on, they always leave us with a gift. Our hearts are so much bigger, and we are forever enriched, for having loved them!
How do you cope with the death of a beloved pet? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.