I’m writing this post with a heavy heart and am crying as I write this. On Monday morning, our family cat and loyal friend, Prissy, was euthanized in our home. My family and I decided that this was best for her. She was a very important part of our family. She was 19 1/2 years old and had serious health issues. There are many things that my family and I can be grateful for… she gave us many joyous moments and companionship, and her lack of suffering when her health was declining.
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 of Prissy. We have more photos of her and our other cat, Charlie, than we have of ourselves! It was comforting to reminisce about the fun times and to see her when she was at her happiest and healthiest. While I wish Prissy could have been with us longer, I am extremely grateful for the time that we did have. Even though my family and 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 wanted Prissy to be as comfortable as possible by being with us in her last moments in her home. We decided on cremation. Prissy’s ashes will be in a small container in a glass bookcase, along with a photo of her. This is a fitting tribute to Prissy that my family and I are comfortable with.
Good bye Prissy, our sweet girl! Thank you so much for the wonderful memories. Thank you for being such a loving companion for the past 19 1/2 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.
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This Post Has 4 Comments
The only pet I lost (if you don’t count Bubba the Beta fish)…was our toy poodle, I grew up with, age almost 14, lost many years ago. I still have dreams about him occasionally (visits), I just had one recently. I’m usually holding, hugging, kissing him, so realistic, feels just like it did in life…and in some dreams my subconscious mind says “wow…how is Pepe still alive?!…” and I hold him tight as if to savor every last moment. He’s probably teaching me to remember that still. What did I do to cope? I remember it well…it was 10:30 am…I had 3 shots of blackberry brandy, called my best friend…we met up later…just hung out. We also cremated Pepe…buried him under a tree in our back yard that I could picture him sitting under, looking up to the sky, breeze blowing through his fur. We had a little ceremony, cognac & carrots (he was a french poodle, hence the cognac & carrots were one of his favorite foods)…I put a picture of me holding/hugging him, taken outside in the back yard, one of the last pics we took and a Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in a plastic bag, buried with the urn. My dad, who cried when he died, and was too close to him, never would have been able to take having the urn in the home…but it’s good you can, Cliff. When we sold the family home 2017, saying goodbye to “Pep” was the final thing I did…and it was hard to leave him behind…still bugs me. Yes…our pets have a lasting effect on our hearts…and yes…it’s so worth it. Peace to you all…and fly free Prissy!
Thank you for your touching story. I’m crying when you mentioned your picture and the Robert Frost poem.
It’s amazing how close a bond we have with our pets. I’ve had pets all of my life. Losing Prissy was exceptionally difficult because we had her the longest.
I like your sentiment “Fly Free Prissy”.
I”ve lost more pets than I care to mention. Every death, broke my heart and I’m a very sensitve human. Even years after their passing when I think of them… my gut aches and I am immediately taken back to the worst moments. I don’t know why that is… it’s like PTSD. I really have to remind myself when the intensity of their death memories wash over me… to replace those horrible images with cheerful ones. I haven’t shed a tear over my own father’s death, but cried a Mississippi River over all of my furry babies. Beautiful article. Thank you,.
I know exactly how you feel. I’ve had pets all of my life. The death of a loving pet hurts. It doesn’t get better, but it subsides over time. Don’t suppress your feelings, but don’t become overcome by them. Cry if you need to. It definitely helps me. Using cheerful images to overcome horrible ones is defintely helpful.
You’re not alone in your feelings about your pets death and your father’s death. It’s hard for people that don’t have animals to believe that we can have intense feelings about furry babies. Sometimes we’re closer to our pets than to other humans.
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