By Elisa Black-Taylor
I’m writing this as a memento, and also a legacy, for the six month anniversary of my dear dog Dreyfuss. Everyone at PoC knew Dreyfuss. He was the dog who loved cats. Cats sleeping with him, cats using him as a launching pad. Or, as in Furby’s case, a cat with the bravado to slap him on the nose. Dreyfuss was always kind to all of the cats. My last article about Dreyfuss chronicled his death and the memories he left behind on all of the lives he touched. It can be found here.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines bereavement as
“the state or fact of being bereaved or deprived of something or someone.”
I’ve found personally that the best way to handle my grief over losing Dreyfuss is to stay busy. So I either write or use my free CraftArtist software to make memorial pages. The link to the scrapbook software is www.daisytrail.com and they’re always offering either free or low cost kits to use with Craft Artist.
I admit as the six month anniversary of my dogs passing drew nearer, my need to write increased. I haven’t been on PoC as often lately because I’m now trying to get into Dog Writer’s Association so I can cover both cats and dogs with a more professional portfolio. I’m currently the #6 pet writer in the U.S. for examiner.com. Some days I think I’m trying to drive myself insane by writing so often. Like I said, grief over losing a pet (or a person) is handled differently by each of us.
Seeking support in a group setting
For those seeking support in a group setting, pet bereavement sites suggest you call your local humane society to see if it offers a pet loss support group or knows of someone who does. Many veterinarian offices now carry bereavement material. Some community pet bereavement groups even have scheduled meetings. A few I found even have picnics.
Your level of grief may depend on your age, your pets age and the circumstances surrounding your pets death. There are no cases exactly alike. Someone whose pet met a violent end will likely have a much harder time dealing with grief than a pet companion who lost an elderly pet to natural causes.
Listen to someone who has lost a pet
One thing I’ve learned even before reading up on pet bereavement groups is that people can be cruel and try to downplay the topic. Don’t argue with those who belittle you as to whether your grief is appropriate. This may mean seeking help from those outside your usual circle of friends. It’s a hard reality to realize your friends and family may think you’re “taking too long” to get over losing your pet. That why it’s best to reach out to others who have lost a pet, because only someone who has lost a pet can truly understand your pain.
Create a legacy to your pet
One suggestion I found on an online bereavement site is to create a legacy to your pet. This can be done by making a memorial spot in your home where you’ll display your pet’s urn and perhaps a favorite toy or photo. If you’ve buried your pet in a favorite outdoor spot, memorialize that spot with a tree. There are even companies that make tombstones for pets. Feel free to personalize that outdoor spot with small statues or even treats.
If this pet also belonged to your child, allow the child to take part in the grieving process. This may mean helping schedule a funeral. Also be sure to explain to a child why a pet must be euthanized. Or why their pet died. To ignore the topic may lead the child into believing either they caused the pets death, or you caused the pets death. It’s better to be honest up front and use this as an opportunity to teach your child that grief is natural.
Watch out for those who would exploit you. There are many companies out there that will take every dime you’re willing to give them by trying to sell you services or products you don’t need.
Did we do the right thing?
Personally, I belong to a few online support groups that are free to join. Several pet websites have a Rainbow Bridge section. Social media pages such as Facebook also have a good number of groups to join that will enable you to act with others who have lost a pet. I also found a few pet bereavement websites that offered online chat rooms. Overall, I’ve learned we all share similar emotions. We all asked the same questions such as “did we do the right thing” and “was there anything we could have done differently.” It’s nice to know you’re among friends(whether online or in person) who know what you’re going through because they’ve gone through the same thing.
Be Patient, Keep Healthy
One thing to remember is that through your grief, you have to take care of yourself. Exercise, try to eat right and get enough rest so your physical health isn’t compromised. Dealing with grief is time consuming, but most bereavement support groups agree the grief will ease up over time. Bouts of grief will eventually give way to emotional pain that may only rise up when something reminds you of your pet. This can be a favorite toy, or being in a place that was special for the two of you.
As for me, I keep my “sons” urn (in my mind he WAS my son)on my nightstand right beside the clay paw impression made at the time of his cremation. I’ve been assured this is normal behavior for a grieving pet parent. For the record, so is sleeping with the urn actually in the bed with you.
I doubt there’s even one of you out there who hasn’t been affected by the profound grief that comes from losing a pet. How did you handle it? Please feel free to offer suggestions or even good websites that helped you cope with the loss.