I’m writing this post with a heavy heart and am crying as I write this. On Thursday afternoon, our beloved cat and loyal friend, Charlie, was put to sleep. My family and I decided that this was best for him. He was a very important part of our family. He was 16 1/2 years old and had serious health issues. There are many things that my family and I can be grateful for… he gave us many joyous moments and companionship, and his lack of suffering when his health was declining.
It was a very unusual circumstance how Charlie came into our lives. My wife was walking our late dog, Teddy, and came upon some “meowing” at the bottom of a hot sewer. It was a small black kitty that was lying down at the bottom of it. He wasn’t trapped but he seemed frightened. We left food and water near the top of the sewer. When we walked away, we saw that he was able to get it. We checked with animal control and placed posters around the neighborhood to see if anyone was looking for him. After a few days, nobody claimed him. After feeding him, he felt comfortable to follow us home. He was with us for 15 1/2 wonderful years!!
The loss of a beloved pet can be emotionally devastating. There’s simply no way to sugarcoat 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 feelings 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’s very helpful when my family and I look at photos of our cats Charlie, Prissy, and our dog Teddy. We have more photos of them than we have of ourselves! It’s comforting to reminisce about the fun times and to see them when they were at their happiest and healthiest. While I wish our pets 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, 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. Charlie’s ashes will be in a small container in a glass bookcase, next to Prissy and Teddy. They were the most comfortable being in the comfort of their home. This is a fitting tribute to them.
Goodbye Charlie, our sweet boy! Thank you so much for the wonderful memories. Thank you for being such a loving companion for the past 15 1/2 years. We love you and miss you already! We have faith that we will see you again someday. We truly 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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