On Saying Goodbye
A few years ago, I had to say goodbye to my beloved Great Dane “Jolie” after she was diagnosed with bone cancer. I adopted her at 8 yrs old knowing from the start that I wouldn’t have that long with her. The life span of Great Danes are typically 8-10 years, and I only was able to spend 3 wonderful months with her. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye so quickly, and it took me a while to move on from the loss.
Looking back at my memories with her, I still tear up knowing how happy I was those last months with her. It’s never easy having to say goodbye to a pet whether they’ve been your life long companion or only with you for a few months. Our pets become such a major part of our families that it’s hard to deal with the loss of a loved pet. Even though there is no right or wrong way to get over the loss, here are a few suggestions that could help you cope if and when you’re faced with such a situation.
For many, a pet is not simply a dog, cat, or reptile. Our pets are beloved members of the family, and when they pass away, you can feel traumatic loss. Much like when dealing with human loss, everyone grieves in their own, sometimes deeply personal way. Some find that grief comes in stages where they experience a series of feelings like denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Others find that grief is more cyclical, coming in waves or a series of highs and lows. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months, but for others, the grieving process can be measured in years.
Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the healing process to naturally unfold. Reaching out to others who have lost their pets can also help. Expressing your feelings with someone who truly understands what you’re going through can be a great alternative to holding feelings inside. It’s ok to cry or not to cry, but it’s also ok to laugh and find moments of joy.
If your friends or family members do not work well with the grief of pet loss, you can try other resources such as online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and grieving support groups. Other helpful alternatives include expressing your feelings in a poem or letter, telling a story about your pet, or rearranging photos and making a memorial collage.
Pet owners may ask the question, “Will my pets grieve?” Pets observe every change in a household and are bound to notice the absence of a companion. They often form strong attachments to one another, and the survivor may grieve for its companion. You may need to give your surviving pets a lot of extra attention and love to help them through this time. Maintaining their daily routine or even increasing exercise and play time will not only benefit the surviving pets but may also help elevate your own outlook too.
I hope this has provided some useful techniques for helping cope with the loss of a pet. I still miss Jolie, but I now celebrate her life and the joy she brought to me and others.