Doctor Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who pioneered the creation of Hospices, describes five stages of grief. These feelings may occur before you lose your pet and will certainly occur after you have. It’s alright to be devastated – just give yourself time. These stages were meant for humans but are just as applicable if you’ve been pole axed by the loss of a much loved pet. You may feel some of these emotions, often in this order but not always.
It can be horribly shocking when you lose your pet. It doesn’t matter whether they have been put to sleep (euthanased), lost to a known terminal illness or killed in an accident. The main thing is that it hurts. And it hurts like nothing else. The pain of losing the unconditional love, companionship and sheer joy of a pet can feel almost unbearable. Your body may put you into denial as a protection mechanism because this is just too much to take. The denial can even extend to finding it almost impossible to allow your pet’s body to be cremated or buried. For now, just accept the blessed cushion of denial because in your heart of hearts, you know the truth.
You may feel real fury towards the Vet who couldn’t save your pet or who euthanased them. You may turn your anger towards a member of your family or a friend. You may even feel anger towards your pet for leaving you. This is all completely normal.
This is more likely to occur before your pet dies but can also happen afterwards, particularly if you are in a state of shock or denial. You may imagine all sorts of deals you are prepared to make as long as none of what you are facing is true. This comes from the desperation that you will be able to save your pet if only…
If extreme sadness goes on for too long, it can turn into a ‘reactive’ depression. If you find yourself unable to function and can’t pick up your life, it’s best to visit a GP. Losing a pet can also bring other losses that you may have suffered to the surface. If this is too much to bear, you may benefit from counselling.
Once you get to this stage, you will be able to think about your pet and enjoy happy memories. There may still be tears. You may start to think about getting another pet at this stage.
Here are Some Books that Might Help
Goodbye, Dear Friend: Coming to Terms with the Death of a Pet by Virginia Ironside
Agony Aunt Virginia Ironside wrote this in response to the thousands of letters she received regarding their pain on the loss of a pet.
She recounts the stories of ordinary people who have suffered pet bereavement as well as Freud and Sir Walter Scott.
Reviewers found it extremely helpful and moving.
For Every Dog an Angel by Christine Davis
This is a book for children, which is wonderful as the effect of pet bereavement on them is often overlooked.
Even though it’s written for children, Adult reviewers loved the simplicity and found it very moving.
Also, when you’ve just lost a pet, your attention span is often shot to pieces so something simple like this can be very comforting.
I am so very sorry for your loss.