I want to talk about a subject that all pet owners either have experienced or will experience, and that is having to say goodbye to a pet.
Death is part of life. The death of a pet can be traumatizing and extremely upsetting (especially depending on the reason why). Pets are part of the family and I know for myself, I have a close bond with my pets. Pets provide you with unconditional love and support and to no longer have that can be really hard to deal with.
I recently wrote about about how it was three years ago that Dean and I had to say goodbye to our boy, Bandit.
Bandit was the first dog that I ever had and the loss I felt is one I still feel today. I had a close bond with Bandit. He was with me through some really amazing times in my life and was with me through some of the hardest times in my life. He stood by me when people in my life did not. He always knew how to make me feel better when I was not feeling good (either physically, emotionally or mentally). That made losing him so much harder.
And just recently, my sister, brother in-law and nephew had to say goodbye to their twelve year old Golden Retriever, Herbie. It was a tough day for everyone, especially my five year old nephew.
Now, there are people who may read this and roll their eyes by saying “it’s just a dog, get over it”. They’re entitled to their opinion, but I’d wager these people have never had a bond with a pet.
Grieving the loss of a pet and being upset is totally normal. When I worked at a distress centre for two years, when it came to any kind of loss, we would say “a loss is a loss”.
When we lose anything, it’s normal to be upset. The loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a house, the loss of a family member. These are all major losses.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a pet. I will try provide some insight on how to deal with the loss of a pet:
Acknowledge the pain you feel.
As I stated, the loss of a pet is real. Please do not try and suppress the emotions you feel. Don’t let anyone tell you to just “suck it up and get over it”.
Also, if you have other pets, know that they will experience grief as well. All Max wanted to do after the loss of Bandit was cuddle with me. He felt the loss of his brother as much as I did.
Yes, it is totally normal and ok to randomly burst into tears following the loss of your pet.
Coming home after having to say goodbye to Bandit was the worst. I saw his blanket and and favourite toy on the ground and lost it. I decided to go into work the next day to try and take my mind off of things, but I found myself running to the bathroom as I could not hold back the tears. It didn’t help as my coworkers and boss at the time didn’t care for the fact that I was in emotional pain. There was not a lot of understanding there and that made the pain worse. Enough to say that I no longer work there.
Talk to someone.
Just as with any loss, look for support. Talk to people. Cry on their shoulder. If you don’t have people in your life who understand what you are going trough, there are many online support groups out there of people who understand your pain. Reach out. It’s especially important to reach out for help if you feel symptoms of depression coming on. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed by that.
It’s normal to not want to go back to the vet where you had to say goodbye.
The vet that we used to go to was along the route that I used to cycle by for my long training rides. For a about a full year, I couldn’t go past there without getting emotional. I couldn’t even bring myself to go into the examining room when we took Max there to get his shots. It was too much for me. Vets deal with with this all the time so reach out to them if you need to. They understand your loss and a good resource to go to in dealing with your grief.
The pain never goes away but it gets easier with time.
For at least the first couple of months, the pain was unbearable. I wanted to crawl into a corner and cry for hours every single day. Eventually, I no longer felt that way, but everyone is different. The anniversary of having to say goodbye to Bandit is also getting easier to deal with. I no longer spend the day in tears. I acknowledge the day but no longer stress over it.
Life will be different.
If you go from walking, feeding and playing with your pet (especially for many years) to no longer doing any of that, it will take time to adjust. Bandit used to sleep in the bed with us and loved to snuggle right next to you. It took time to get used to him no longer being there.
Self care is important.
As with any major loss, take time to grieve and grieve in your own way on your own time. Don’t force yourself into social situations if you are not up for it. Take care of yourself.
Don’t try and erase your pet from your memory. While this can be emotionally difficult, create a memorial for them. We got Bandit’s ashes in a rock that we have on our mantle. It sits in the sunshine as that was Bandit’s favourite thing to do. We also have a framed photo of him sitting next to it.
I aslo have him as my screen saver on all my electronic devices as well, I have a photo of him as my background photo on my personal Facebook page. He may be gone physically, but he will always be in my heart.
Don’t rush into getting another pet.
I will say this, you can not replace a pet. Please do not try to. We already had Max and adopted Freckles later that year. Freckles was not a replacement. No dog could replace Bandit. Add to your family when you are ready. Only you will know when the time is right.
There is nothing that you or I can do to prevent the loss of a pet (or anything in life for that matter). I know I will have to deal with the loss of a pet three more times at some point (hopefully years from now). All you can do is try and deal with the loss the best you can. All I can do if offer my support, empathy and sympathy to anyone who has gone through the loss of a pet.
Take care and hugs you all.