Coping With Grief
Loosing a pet can be a very emotional time, particularly if children are involved. Here are some tips to help you get through the worst times.
As long as I live I will never forget the phone call telling me that my faithful dog had passed away. I was grief stricken beyond belief. People who never owned a dog, or loved a pet simply didn’t understand the endless tears. The comments “it was just a dog,” absolutely infuriated me.
She wasn’t just a dog. She was my comrade, my best friend, the one who made me feel safe at night, who was always by my side and loyal beyond any comparison. I grew up, left home and bought her. She was part of the biggest changes and challenges in my life. Then without warning, on a beautiful Friday morning, she was gone. I was devastated.
Growing up with pets, I had bid my farewell to a few along the way. However Jazzy was different, she was my dog, my first dog I’d owned independently of my family. Even today, the sight of a chocolate Dobermann brings a tear to my eye and probably always will. Her loss made me research some things you can do to help ease your pain…no matter how ‘silly’ some deem you are. The loss of a pet is real grief. They are real emotions, and here are some tips to help you through.
If you are able to, say goodbye to your pet. This can give you closure. If you are with your pet when they pass over, a reassuring voice, a cuddle can help your animal transit into the unknown world. Don’t be afraid to let your emotions show. The many times I have helped my family members say goodbye to their pets have seen us all share many tears with wonderful veterinarians and nurses alike.
Take some time out to remember and talk about the good times. Find all the photos, pop them in an album. This is also a great way to get the children remembering the good times. Plant a tree, and even get a ‘memory stone’ or plaque. This doesn’t have to cost anything. Our beloved cat is buried beside their favourite tree and the children have painted a ‘special’ rock in memory. If you live in an apartment consider having your pets remains cremated. Today there are many wonderful options on specially designed wooden boxes that can be engraved with messages and names. Speak to your veterinarian as they can help organise all of this for you in your time of sadness.
There are some wonderful children’s books that can help explain to a child what is happening. One of my favourite’s is; The Sunshine Cat by Miriam Moss and Lisa Flather. This book was instrumental for my children when we lost our beloved Siamese (even though is was terrible difficult to read without shedding a tear). Be open with your children and let them see you are also sad. Remembering this is probably their first encounter with death and immortality. Teach them that it is ok to be sad about a lost pet, and not to push those emotions away, or hide from them. Big cuddles, finished with smiles and good memories will help them transit through this sad time. Another great book is Jasper’s Day, by Marjorie Blain Parker that is about a boy saying goodbye to his dog. Picture books are a great way to help younger children understand what is happening. With older children, plenty of hugs and encouraging them to talk will help them deal with their emotions.
Don’t rush out and purchase another pet to fill the void of your lost animal. It will take time to heal, and say goodbye. It is always best these emotions are completely dealt with before inviting another pet into your home. Remembering that by putting your grief and emotions on your new arrival might invite a whole host of problems in your home. Making sure when you are ready for a new pet, it is because you want to make an addition, rather than fill a void, will make all the difference.
From a personal point, after loosing my beloved dog, her companion (a beautiful German Shorthaired Pointer, Bronson) was spoilt to the core. We were so sad about her loss that we over-compensated with Bronson, not realising we were making him feel very insecure. He had lost his ‘leader’ in his pack, then her ‘leaders’ – being us – were falling apart at the seams and letting him do things he would never be allowed to do when Jazzy was alive.
Within a matter of days he became a very anxious dog, scared of loud noises and sounds (after all he had no intention of being a leader and he surely didn’t want to deal with those sounds!). He would literally shake with fear at the sound of a smoke alarm…you could even hear his teeth chattering in his mouth. Once we realised what we were unconsciously doing to Bronson and his feelings of security, the rules were reinstated, training began again, and he quickly settled in his new role without his big sister.
A BIT ABOUT THE BLOGGER:
Nadia Crighton is a well-known and accomplished Australian Journalist and pet magazine Editor. As a busy mum of four humans, two dogs, 50 sheep, three cats, a handful of chickens and a goat named Billy, she simply adores pets of all shapes and sizes.