Pet Loss and Grief
I have been off Radar because of work, move, and a few other changes at the personal front. In the meanwhile , four of my very dear friends lost their much loved fur companions and I am grieving with them . Hence, this topic has become larger than life for me at this point in time . Made me think about the period when we lost Rusty and what we experienced back then . Apologies in advance if its dark and gloomy in parts.
Losing our beautiful dog Rusty is the most heart breaking thing that has happened to me . He is my best friend, my kid, my soul mate, my person. The pain still feels like my heart is being torn apart physically. He changed my life in more ways than one, even after his crossing over. So needless to say , I was lost and in despair, had very little interest in life. The initial few months were up and down .I would feel like I was getting better and then would go back feeling like I was falling into a deep hole that I didn’t want to climb out of. Anxiety attacks became a norm and I just accepted it as a way of life
My immediate family and some lovely friends who are family to me, helped me a lot during this phase . I am truly blessed and lucky that they put up with my mood swings, held space for my when I wanted to talk about it and just let me brood the other times .They didn’t judge me over how long I decided to mourn. A big thank you to my life partner, who was grieving in a different way but tried his best to be there for me. I did make this all about myself for a long time and ignored his pain. I know I wasn’t easy to live with. I am filled with eternal gratitude for all of them
Why is Grief over losing a pet so difficult to deal with?
In my opinion, there a few things that makes dealing with grief from pet loss difficult
1. Guilt: The should haves and if onlys just doesn’t let us move on. The feeling of having let them down haunts us. I used to beat myself up over one thing that I wish I had done differently and when I finally make peace with that, another thing used to crop up. I felt I let him down. I felt I didn’t train him well enough to not eat stuff off the ground, since we lost him to alleged poisoning. This is despite the vet telling me multiple times that poison meant for animals are meant to attract them and so may be even training might not have helped.
2. Judgment: On one hand you are judging yourself for your choices surrounding your pet’s crossing over .And on the other hand, you get judged by others too .Strangely, I found some fellow pet people less empathetic. Most of them couldn’t understand /borderline accused us for not adopting right away. And there were some who felt we could have saved him had we been as caring or as intelligent as them .For example ,One said that this is the reason why he ensured his dog doesn’t eat anything off the ground , hinting I should have trained my dog better. This only made my guilt stronger. I had gone for a house check for a rescue that I used to Volunteer for . When the lady understood who I was, she said “you should have taken him to my vet (instead). At least my dogs don’t come back dead”. These were her exact words. I think our vet did a great job. She didn’t move from the place for 7 hours and tried her best. All these people truly care about animals and felt bad about what happened to Rusty. But they thought I could have avoided the outcome had I made more informed choices
One of the main reasons why I had to quit volunteering was that I was tired off fending questions on why I couldn’t foster, though I did foster some emergency cases . I was so busy dealing with all this that I forgot to deal with the actual grief. I now understand that it was still my choice to get upset over all this . But when you are emotionally low every single one feels like a beating .
There is also a lot of judgment from people that don’t have pets. There is this feeling that animals , their life and soul are inferior to us humans. So they just don’t get the concept of us grieving over them.They make you feel like you are creating this pain over nothing. They are also the ones who tell you to get another dog and just move on. We don't have kids . So some of them advised we adopt a kid and that will fix all the pain.
3. Expiry date of Grief: There is pressure on you to get over the grief. You hear people say, it’s been way too long, or even humans die or I expect you to be stronger than this. While I might have gotten upset or angry over this back then, I have realized that humans are very uncomfortable with the whole concept of grief and grieving. People want you to be over it because they don’t know how to help you .That feeling of being unable to fix things makes them very uncomfortable. Though on the hindsight I understand this, it wasn’t pretty dealing with it back then.
How to cope with the Grief over losing a pet?
" Grief never ends ... But it changes . It's a passage , not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith.. It is the price of love" - Unknown
We never stop grieving . There is a part of us that always wishes for that one last time . But we start dealing with the pain better over time . We start smiling more than we cry when we talk about them .
Dealing with grief was a long journey ,for me personally. And I believe its different for different people .The main thing is creating a circle of people who understand your grief and are supportive . It doesn't necessarily have to be a friend with a pet .
Besides the support of the lovely humans in my life , Animal Communication and Energy Healing played the biggest role in this healing journey .I did come across other tools that helped me and have tried my best to recollect the details and list them here .
1.Books: Books on Animal Communication, in particular , was the starting point to my healing. When I read about connecting with animals that have crossed over, it made me understand that they don’t just disappear, but here in a different form. I am not religious and I am not even sure if I am spiritual. But Michael Newton’s books on Life after Death and reincarnations, made me see death from a totally different perspective. I began to accept that this is not forever and it was supposed to go this way. This helped me accept that I couldn't have avoided this outcome . I know that most religions don’t advocate life after death, but this whole concept gave me solace.
2.Energy Healing: My first Reiki session was six months after his passing . A friend who is a Reiki master offered to do it for me to help with what I was going through . Post the session , I went home and crashed for 4 hours . For about 6 months until then , I used to sleep only for a couple of hours a day mostly due to exhaustion . After my Reiki Level 1 , I started sleeping 6 hours a day . It made me feel better physically, translating to finally getting the will to fix my anxiety and depression. My anxiety attacks came down in frequency and I finally felt like I could walk into a supermarket or go the gym without breaking down . I truly believe it’s the power of energies that led me to my life purpose and introduce me to this whole tribe of people who taught me how to be empathetic to people and their animals at the same time. Having said that , I don’t believe there is an epiphany hidden somewhere every time you lose a pet. Not everything is about us.
3.Tapping / EFT : EFT made me accept my current state of emotions and feelings .Tapping on specific meridian points gave those emotions a release. It helped me accept how low I felt and how relief from this is a possibility. Accepting that it’s fine to be happy., accepting that you aren’t going to forget that bark/meow or the unique smell or those little quirks that your pet had. EFT also made me understand why I didn't feel like moving on .I had this secret fear that I would forget his face , his smile , his goofy bark when he was trying to manipulate me into giving him something , besides a few other tiny things that mattered to me. It took me a while to understand that some things never fade away.
4.Animal Communication: I really wish I had mustered the courage to speak to Rusty earlier on. When I did it after years , I understood how he never left me, loves us immensely and how he enjoyed his time on earth. And he said how he was worried about me when I was unwell. Before the session, I was scared about what he would say , how I would feel. But all I felt was the purest form of love. It’s an opportunity to understand them even deeper, though they have dropped their physical body. It also helps put some of our doubts to rest. In most cases, it helps us get closure. Had a client whose dog passed away due to a post operative complication. The dog was able to tell me which organ had failed . It was an extremely rare complication and the vet ratified to her later that that’s probably the only explanation to what had happened. This gave my client some closure.
I consider myself super lucky to have Rusty on speed dial (as I call it) now. And I feel privileged and honored when I have to talk to other crossed over animals. I would say that this is the favorite part of my work.
6. Grief Counselling : I do believe that counseling can make a difference, specially if you aren't comfortable talking about it to your loved ones . Or if you live far away from close family and your best friends , this is certainly something to consider . If it turns out expensive , you can check if a vet or a hospital is offering this service for free in your city.
How to help someone who has lost their beloved pet ?
1.Being Present: Just be there for them. Honestly, this is the only thing they need. They aren’t seeking a solution. Sometimes all you want is for people to listen to you and be non judgmental about it. For example, I prefer holistic ways to treat illnesses or maybe I think that I wouldn’t have given up on my pet in a particular scenario. Well, that’s what I think. But who knows what I would have done in their shoes. So, it’s best to keep all our judgments aside and be there for them when they are in pain. We all think we have done enough research and we know what is the best. I don’t think we do and it’s fine if we don’t know everything. While I haven't faced this situation personally , there is a lot of strong judgement surrounding Euthanasia as well- whether pro or against . I do have my opinion on it but I definitely would not discuss it with someone who has just lost their pet. There are times when a friend would have chosen to go in a route that I am not comfortable with . When they tell me about it apologetically , I just tell them they knew what was right for their pet at that point in time and I have always meant it .
2. Accept that every soul has a value. Grief is also a tiny way of honoring the soul. Please don’t force them to replace with cat with another one right away. If they choose to do it themselves, then it’s different and be supportive of that decision. In some cases, there are kids that would want one right away (well, I did as a kid and I now understand how my dad probably wasn’t ready for it back then) or the animal at home might seek a companion . Sometimes people are just strong enough to create that space in their heart for another one real soon. I think the person would know when they see a right fur companion. Otherwise, it’s better to bring a pet home when you have dealt with the grief. Else, there could be a tendency to compare the new animal with the one that just crossed over . The new one will never be able to match up to their expectations , because we mostly remember the best qualities of any departed soul. The Shelter dog prayer is a very popular post that gets shared in social media and most people thought I needed to see it. But that in itself felt like pressure to me. We did adopt almost 2 years later and for us, that was the best decision.
3.Giving them space and time : Everyone grieves differently and overcomes it at their own pace. Telling them it’s already been X months so get over it , only makes it worse. Time is the best healer as they say. So it gets better over a period of time and that period is different for everyone . Also , if the person is like me , they might not be really in a mood to socialize all the time . Sometimes they would just want to be by themselves and think about their time with their pet .
4.Sharing Pictures and memories that you have with their Pet: Nothing brightens your mood more than someone else talking about your pet in a fond way. And there never could be too many pictures of your pet anyway. So go ahead and spam their inbox .
Animal Communication has helped me stay in touch with Rusty and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. And I am just humbled every time I get to connect with a pet that has crossed over. I am grateful to all my clients who have trusted me with this.
Signing off with my favorite poem on Pet Loss
I ONLY WANTED YOU
They say memories are golden
Well maybe that is true.
I never wanted memories,
I only wanted you.
A million times I needed you,
A million times I cried.
If love alone could have saved you
You never would have died.
In life I loved you dearly,
In death I love you still.
In my heart you hold a place
No one could ever fill.
If tears could build a stairway
And heartache makes a lane,
I'd walk the path to heaven
And bring you back again.
Our family chain is broken,
And nothing seems the same.
But as God calls us one by one,
The chain will link again.