Dora our beloved sausage shaped adopted dog was adored and kissed on her forehead every time I saw her. She died at home with her own family. She died in the best possible way, in her favorite room and at the side of her human. When i was informed of her heart disease i went to see her at the vet. Her beautiful family shared this moment with me. She walked out from the vet rooms and greeted each one of us individually moving from one person to the next sharing a greeting with each one of us.
That was the last time I saw Dora.
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
- Jean Cocteau (director, Orpheus)
JC was a ginger bomb. A boy cat. No frills on him. When we first met each other he was young and cheeky. He used to sit on the roof of the terrace and tease me as i fretted below him.
During his last days I was visiting him as his family were away on holiday. His routine would be to crawl out from under the duvet and saunter out of the bedroom and 'miouw' a contented happy greeting to me. He would roll on the floor and then walk off into the sitting room where our cuddles would take place. On the last day i entered his flat and he didn't come to greet me. There was no miow of greeting or furry roll on the floor.
JC had passed away during the night from Sudden Death Syndrome.
I wrapped him in a blanket and preyed and cried to the empty space around me. I thanked him for his special place in my life and for enriching it with cheekiness and laughter.
Death and grief are certainties in life. Grief is the response to loss. Loss could be the loss of a limb, loss of a dream, a family member or a beloved pet. When a cherished pet dies, the experience of grief and bereavement are no different than mourning the death of a person we have loved. Pet loss is real, significant, and heart wrenching. The feelings of sadness, loneliness, guilt, or anger don't discriminate because the deceased was a pet.
Our society's customs around human loss are well established - we have funerals, religious ceremonies, and we are encouraged to share our stories and memories of the deceased. In Judaism for instance, the bereaved formally mourn for seven days of shiva, during which, the bereaved are surrounded by, and lifted up by their community. Similarly, in Hinduism, the mourning period is over 13 days. I think we have all heard of Irish wakes.
Ignoring grief, tears at the fabric of being human and disallows one of the most crucial experiences that must occur in the wake of our loss. Yet there are no such established norms for pet loss. Here are some points to help understand a bit more about grief:
To feel the pain of grief when the bonds with our pets are broken. The bonds we have with our companion animals are deep and strong and when those bonds are broken our grief is real and worthy of attention.
To feel shocked and overwhelmed by the intensity of our grief. Since our animals’ life spans are so much shorter than our own, it is inevitable that eventually we will experience the loss of our beloved animal companions. The grief we feel at such times can be far more intense than we ever expected, no different from that of losing another special family member or cherished friend.
To understand our grief reactions, feelings and behaviors as normal. Grief is a natural, spontaneous response to the loss of a significant relationship.
Truly acknowledge that you are, in fact, grieving. This is usually very difficult to come to terms with because allowing yourself to grieve demands that you be vulnerable — not just with others, but with yourself. You must be willing to look yourself in the mirror and resist the temptation to bury the pain that resides within you.
Physchological research (1) has shown that those who repress their grief are more likely to succumb to depression, sleep disorders, and other adverse effects in the aftermath of grief than those who don’t. As scary as it can be to allow yourself to experience grief, the reality is that it can actually prevent complications down the line.
Don’t hesitate to seek out support from a licensed therapist or a support group or find help from a friend who will listen without judgement. A friend who can empathise and who is not afraid to broach or share the pain, someone with whom we can openly acknowledge our feelings, express and work through our feelings, and come to terms with our loss.
To have our grief recognized by others as significant and legitimate. Since grieving over animals isn’t generally accepted in our society, we may feel uneasy or embarrassed, as if we have no right to feel or express our grief because our loss is not significant enough. But we’re not grieving “just an animal.” Since we’re the only ones who know how much our animals meant to us, when they’re gone we’re the only ones who can measure how very much we’ve lost.
All grief is painful but disenfranchised grief – grief that is dismissed by others – is more painful still.
Honor the memory of our pets in whatever way we see fit. To memorialize our beloved companion animals is to honor and acknowledge the important role they played in our lives, to bring comfort to ourselves and to help us keep their love and presence in our hearts. Among other things, we can memorialize our pets by writing about them, making an album or a scrapbook, planting a living memorial in our garden, having a meaningful memorial service, funeral or ritual, or making a donation to a charitable animal organization in our pet’s name.
My information for the above blog was taken from the following sites: