Pet bereavement support
Tel: 07952 230199
My name is Angela Fletcher. I am a pet ‘owner’ or rather, I share my life with my family, and also with our animal companions – currently 2 cats.
Over the years I have shared my adult life with 5 other cats, for whom I have experienced, lived through and survived their illness and their death. I found for me, each experience of having to say goodbye to each of those animals was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do.
Many of us who live with animals may be able to come to terms with the death of an animal relatively easily and without much help. Many others including myself, may find that they need some support.
There is a lot of support available for helping us to cope with death. For example, Cruse offers support for the bereavement of human beings, and Blue Cross offers telephone and email support for people bereaved from the death of an animal.
There are also other agencies, such as Samaritans, Animal Samaritans, and The Ralph Site. Aside from agencies and websites, we may be also able to talk to family and friends.
However, in my own grief, I didn’t know anyone around me who had got as upset as I had at the death of an animal, and I felt very much on my own with the sadness, emptiness, despair, desolation … that I felt. I didn’t feel that anyone could understand just how upset I was.
Each day, each week, each month, I had memories all around me, with my head full of mixed up feelings of guilt, sadness, loss … and the massive amount of grief that I felt.
I was very aware that some (many ?) people didn’t accept or understand that I could be so upset – it was an animal which had died and not a human being. I’ve since done a lot of crying, a lot of grieving, and a lot of thinking.
Most of the time I no longer feel the intense sadness that I used to feel, although it can be triggered by a thought, a memory, an event, or something else.
People talk of ‘coming to terms’ with a death. I don’t know if we always do that, maybe we do. Perhaps for some deaths it may take us longer to grieve than for others.
Maybe, sometimes, the loss is so acute that we never ‘get over it’, but just learn to live our lives, despite the loss. Perhaps Sigmund Freud summed it up best:
‘We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that a part of us shall remain inconsolable and never find a substitute.
No matter what may fill the gap, even if it is completely filled, it will nevertheless remain something changed forever…’ Sigmund Freud 1856-1939
For me, that’s about it in a nutshell. I accept that our lovely animals have died, and I accept the loss in our lives with them not around us anymore.
However, I don’t think I have come to terms with the loss that I feel from their death, and perhaps I never will – I still miss all of them so very dearly.
They are always in my mind somewhere, whether that be somewhere at the back of it, or suddenly forefront – if I catch a glimpse of a picture of them, or something else that reminds me of them.
What I have come to terms with though, is that I have realised that I will grieve each time an animal being that I have shared my life with dies, and that that is going to hurt.
For many years I worked as a university lecturer, and in other jobs that focused on IT and computing, during which time, I trained part time as a counsellor.
As a trainee, I wanted to work with Cruse Bereavement Care, and was fortunate to be able to work for Cruse, supporting people living with the death of a human being. I also started working as a counsellor in schools.
Over the following years, with the death of each of our cats, I became aware, from my own experiences, of how grieving the death of an animal is often met with cliched, but well meaning phrases such as, ‘You can always get another one’.
I realised myself, that whilst we tend to accept that someone may get upset and grieve the death of a person, it seemed that the majority of us don’t tend to accept or understand that someone might be very upset when their pet dies – and that they might grieve that loss as much as, or even more than, they might grieve the loss of a human being.
Three of our cats died within a year. That was a lot of death. In between the last 2 deaths of our cats, I did the Pet Bereavement course run by Blue Cross. After that, I had started to set up working as a counsellor again, having had a break to have children.
However, that was not to be, and I entered into 10 weeks of nursing one of our 2 year old cats, eventually losing him to a fatal disease. Again, I was grieving.
My reason for talking about my grief and the death of our cats above, is to show my reasons for wanting to set up this website – to add to the voices of others – websites, agencies and other people, trying to show us that perhaps a change is needed …
Perhaps its time for us all to realise and accept, that feeling so terribly and horribly upset, and feeling devastated, lonely, guilty … are normal responses to the death of a pet.
Sure, we don’t all feel like that with the death of an animal (or the death of a human being) – but the point is, that we might feel like that – and that feeling like that is a normal response to death, any death.
We are grieving the death of a loved one, a being who has shared our life with us – whether they be a human being or an animal, it is love we have for that being, and they have died. Surely, it’s reasonable – that we might be upset ?
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