“Until one loves an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened.” Anatole France
If you’ve been graced by a four-legged family member, eventually you may feel the extreme sting of loss at their death. Somehow, it’s just not fair that the life span of cherished pets is significantly shorter than humans.
No more wagging tail greeting or purring body curled up comfortably on your lap. No more brisk walks with your unconditionally loving, perpetually forgiving buddy.
The emptiness can feel almost unbearable, leaving a gaping hole in your heart as well as your home.
Unlike when a dear friend or family member dies, society doesn’t always understand or respond well to the grieving that results from the loss of a pet. An “I’m so sorry you lost your pet,” with the hurried expectation that “It was just a pet, so time to move on now”; or “Just go get another one, you’ll be fine!” is how people generally respond.
Mourning without support can certainly make you feel even more alone, like something’s wrong with you for feeling sad, lonely and like you can never love another animal companion again.
The loss of a pet provokes the predictable stages of grieving just as with the death of anyone you feel attachment toward.
Please know this: There is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do.
Pets not only become part of the family, they are often thought of as children (that don’t talk back), mute confidantes entrusted with our secrets, and devoted forever friends.
Clearly, we often see them as far more than just cared for animals.
It’s not unusual to feel convinced you will never be able to love another pet like this one, that you will never have another one as perfectly wonderful. The depth of this loss can discourage you from wanting to home another animal, fearing going through pain like that again.
No matter how good a pet parent you were, you may feel somehow responsible for their death.
Often it’s easier to cope with the sudden death of a pet than with having to euthanize them. Making the choice to “put down” an animal brings inevitable guilt, and did I make the right choice. Maybe even who am I to determine the death of another?
Like humans, pets will rally at the end of a long illness, providing false hope for a recovery. Our animal companions may try to hold to life for the sake of the owner, continuing to do everything they can to please us.
Because they are able to see the pictures we have in our minds, they know that their upcoming death is causing ambivalence in us. They want the relief that death will bring as they feel us wanting that for them as well.
Just as human spirits reincarnate repeatedly with the same group of people, the same can hold true for animals. As a transpersonal therapist, I’ve worked with clients who discover a former beloved pet has come back into their life in another (physical or spiritual) form offering love, lessons and assistance.
A childhood dog can return as that horse you’ve always dreamed about owning; your aloof cat could now be offering comfort in a non-physical form; your Best Furry Friend that was hit by a car could even return as your human child.
Remember: You don’t need anyone’s approval to mourn the loss of your pet, nor have to justify your feelings to anyone. Grief takes as long as it takes, and, like losing a human companion, your life may never feel the same without them.
Oh, and don’t judge yourself for bouncing back quickly either!
If you need a compassionate, caring person to lend a sympathetic ear and help you journey through your grief, please contact me.
“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”
- Helen Keller