Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Why is it so hard when a pet dies?
"Goodbye My Friend
I know I will never see you again,
But the love you gave me through all the years
Will take away these tears
It's OK now
You can go now
Goodbye my friend"
Losing a pet, at any age can be one of the most difficult things we can go through in our lives. Why is it so hard? It can be as bad or even worse than losing a close human family member. I think that this is for a few reasons: our pets give true unconditional love, the loss seems too large to accept, and we can not mourn properly for them.
Our pets give us true, unconditional love. How many people can do this? Pets give and want no more then to give more. They never are resentful or too tired to show you how much they love you. In my opinion, animals are capable of great love and devotion with no strings attached. When you have a special pet, the bond you can share is almost indescribable and deepens over the years. We can grow to understand and communicate with our special fur friend in a truly delightful way. This is not a one way relationship; they always seem to know when YOU need some special attention. When this deep playful, reciprocal love is taken by the death of your pet, the loss can be as deep as the love was.
When we are close to people, we still have disagreements. In my opinion, there is no baggage when a pet dies. I know this sounds terrible. When my 16 year old cat Stahzy died. I was inconsolable. I am a Veterinarian who had to deal with death daily. It did not matter when it happened to me. I had no regrets or guilt about the relationship with my cat. I wanted her back so badly, I truly was not sure I could go on without her. I knew that I appreciated her everyday, and told her I loved her. I do not understand, but this made my grief worse. It was, to me, the most perfect love I could experience with another living creature in this imperfect life. This loss seemed too great to accept.
When we have such a deep loss, unless we mourn properly it is very difficult to move through the stages of grief. In our society, even though our closest pets have been elevated to precious family members we can not grieve for them properly. I believe we need chapels, funerals, personal days and more to truly acknowledge this loss. It is very difficult to process these feelings when we are embarrassed that they are from a pet's death. We should be allowed to own this grief not be embarrassed by it. Part of the job of advocating for Animal Hospice is to ensure the physical comfort of our pets, and the emotional needs of the grieving owner are met as well. We need to understand the death process and understand this is a natural part of the life of the animals we love.
I know I may be simplifying a very complicated issue, and this is just my opinion. However, there is a big disconnect in our society between how important animals have become for us and the allowances made us when they die. The loss in some ways seem worse than a family member, and we are so devastated because it is difficult to pass through the stages of grief. We need to all work together to try to remedy this. We need to make efforts be an empathetic friend to those near us who lose a pet. We need to find ways to memorialize our pets, remember them and celebrate their lives. Acknowledging how large our loss is the first step towards working through it. Seeking pet cemeteries, chapels, having a funeral and talking about our grief can help.
If you need help, I encourage you to speak to a counselor, a Pet Loss Hotline, your Veterinarian and your friends who have been through a similar situation. Memorialize your pet, celebrate their lives.
Compehensive list of Pet Loss Hotlines: http://is.gd/2xI6H
from www.rainbowbridge.com another excellent resource
I also invite you to comment here and join me on About.com to discuss these ideas and how they have affected you: http://is.gd/2xHIz