Death of Your Best Friend, The Ugly Cry & A Guide

by Mary Haight on November 6, 2011

Death and grief are an odd couple in our culture. People are often embarrassed by tears, and turn away rather than consoledeath of a pet another – it makes them uncomfortable.  Disturbing that this should be so, given loss is a shared experience that should bind us with the reminder life is fragile.  Response to grief can be even more complicated when grieving over the death of a pet.  Support can be found among other cat and dog owners, but you won’t always feel the love from those closest to you. That lack of support may find you hiding rather than expressing your feelings, making it more difficult to get to a place of healing.

Death of a Pet

The death of a pet is traumatic. When your dog or cat dies suddenly it is always a shock, just as it is a shock when you have to make a life or death decision for your dog or cat when the time comes.  I don’t know which is more difficult – to have the choice made for you or to have to make the choice. I’ve been in both places, as most pet people have, and have suffered the ignorance of comments like “*it* was only a dog” and a sometimes (not always) dismissive “well he was 14” as if that was long enough.  Is there an age limit to grief?  I say let loose your torrent of tears, go for the ugly cry and let it flow. There is often catharsis in that.

When you ask pet people what they think about when they remember dogs in their lives, a common thread is a sense that if they had done something differently, the outcome might have changed.  Guilt.  It dogs our heels through the years. But probably the most constant shared experience of grief are the blank spaces everywhere you look. The glance that expects to see your dog or cat sleeping in their usual place, chewing their bone, pouncing on toys meets empty space instead.  It takes your breath away. The experience of waking every day and coming home each night to silence is a constant reminder – the life of the house and your constant companion is gone.

Grief Support Guide

Pet loss is the subject of Lorie Huston’s interview with Gael Ross, a licensed clinical social worker who has written “30 Day Guide to Healing from the Loss of Your Pet“.  It includes a diary and words of wisdom to help you get your bearings in your first month of coping with loss. I think you will find this an interesting, informative and surprisingly upbeat discussion on grief, the various stages, and how those stages do not travel a linear path – something I think we might lose sight of. Check it out at Animal Cafe and join the conversation – have you stoically held back tears, felt suddenly not part of those close to you because they did not understand?


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