If you are bereaved from the death or loss of a cherished animal  

this website hopes to offer some support …

Tel: 07952 230199

Pet bereavement support

Moving forward

I don’t think there is an easy answer to moving forward and living in a new reality – living with the loss of a being we held so dear.   I don’t think there is a quick fix.  I do think though, that grief needs to take it’s time, and be given time.

We are human beings, and we experience emotions.  However, most of us don’t want to be upset.  Bad things can get in the way of us enjoying our lives.  We tend to want to be happy, for the sun to shine, the sky to be blue, and for things in our lives to all be OK. 

Technology has given us the ability to do things faster and more easily.  Medicine has enabled us to to take away pain and to prolong life.  We are more able than ever before to be able to fix things when they go wrong, whether that be a broken washing machine, or a sick body – we have pills that we can take to get rid of a headache, to help with depression, to make us better. 

Perhaps we now expect things to be done faster and faster, and for things to be fixed, so that our route to happiness is faster.  Maybe we are in a rush to feel better and to ‘recover’ from our grief.  Maybe we are used to being able to fix things – whether that be objects around  us, or ourselves. 

Maybe we expect – and want, to get over our grief so that we can get on with the rest of our lives.  I don’t know.  Everyone is different, I am just offering some thoughts to try to understand what we face with the world, and the culture we live in, which may affect how we feel about ourselves – when we find that we are grieving, perhaps more than we, or those around us, think we should be.

What I have found is that coming to terms with the death of a loved one takes time.  Grieving, crying … feeling sad, isolated, desolate, empty, guilty, angry, distraught, powerless, not heard, not understood, ignored – all of that takes place over what can be a long time.

More time than we might want it to take.  It hurts to feel sad and to grieve.  It is also inconvenient, because it takes up time – time with which we could have a better chance of being happy with, or doing something more useful with, if we weren’t feeling upset.

However, if as human beings we ignore that grief, and upset, and a feeling of wanting to cry, it can end up in a headache, feeling stressed, more unhappy, becoming withdrawn and not wanting to talk to, or be with anyone, and make us ill. 

It may be that we need to open up to how we feel, to acknowledge and accept that we are grieving, and not try to look for a quick fix.

There may be many times however when we feel that we can’t pay attention to how we are feeling and to letting ourselves grieve – we may be at work, out with friends, at the dentist, on a day out with our children, not ready to grieve, or not wanting to.  Sometimes, we may decide it’s best to keep our grief inside – for the time being. 

However, if we are feeling grief, it will still be there unless we acknowledge it later on, let it come out somehow, and spend time experiencing it.

Grieving can involve many things – all of the feelings and emotions mentioned above, and more.  It usually involves crying and feeling sad.  We tend not to want to spend our time doing that.  It’s upsetting, it takes up time, and it can take up a lot of energy.

There are things we can do, such as exercise to help us deal with anger, going for walks, doing yoga, and arts and crafts, to help us to deal with the stress, and/or smoking, drinking, and eating junk food to help numb our sadness.  We can try to spend more time with our friends, or busy ourselves with more work, to try to take our mind off of our grief.

We may also have counselling, go to a bereavement group, and read books and websites about grief (such as this one), to try to find out more about grief and bereavement.

Any or all of that might help.  It may indeed speed up our feeling better about our loss.  Whatever works (in moderation), and as long as you are keeping yourself safe.  However, I don’t think that there is a shortcut to getting around grief. 

If you are feeling the need to cry, sure, going to the gym or eating crisps may make you feel better.  However, if the need to cry doesn’t go away, or the need to sit in a dark room and hug your dog’s favourite pillow doesn’t go away, then perhaps you are going to have to to do that, no matter:

  • if you feel you ‘shouldn’t be doing that’
  • or that ‘you feel you ‘should be over it – it was only an animal’
  • or because you ‘don’t know of anyone else who has got so upset over the death of an animal, and surely this isn’t normal – is it ?’

Grief is normal.  Whether it is an animal being  or a human  being who has died.  Feeling sad, upset, lost, distraught, guilty, ripped apart, feeling like you will never be able to cry enough and get the upset out of you in order to feel better – all that is normal.  

It’s no picnic, but it’s the process of getting used to the death of a loved one – something, someone, that was so dear to you and shared your life.  It is the process of getting used to a significant loss in your life.  That is grief.  It takes time, and it needs time.

You do need to keep yourself and other people safe however.  So, within that, do what you feel you need to do, when you feel safe to do it.  For example, crying when you get home from work; punching a pillow, rather than a wall, to try to get rid of your anger; going for a walk or doing the washing up … taking time out from other people if you, or they, are getting especially irritated, angry or upset with each other – or if you feel that they are not understanding, or accepting that you need to grieve. 

Or you might feel the need to:

  • just stare into space  
  • sit with your thoughts
  • think of nothing, just being still
  • look at photos of your animal being, and sitting with what feelings come to you, whether that be tears of sadness, or smiles from the times you had together
  • hug things they loved such as toys, pillows, leads, bedding

You may want to re-visit – or avoid, things that you did with your animal companion, such as:

  • places where you went for walks together
  • the pet shop or supermarket where you bought their food
  • programmes on TV that you sat down with them to watch
  • the vets, or the route you used to get to the vets

You might also want to get rid of – or keep hold of, anything around you that reminds you of them, such as:

  • medication you were using to try to help them get better
  • their personal effects – toys, bowls, coats, brushes, blankets, beds or boxes they slept in
  • pet carriers that you used, to take them to the vets in
  • appointment cards for future treatment you may have had booked with the vets

You may want to spring clean your house – or keep it as it was, when they were alive.

There is no one set way for how any of us will grieve the death of a cherished animal companion.  You may not chose to, or want to, but perhaps all we can do is take it as it comes, keeping ourselves and those around us safe, and let our body and mind grieve our loss.

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