When we have adopted a pet, it takes no time before they have stolen our hearts and they quickly become part of our family. Just as much as we grow attached to them, their attachment grows too. In the initial adoption stages they become familiar with our habits and their new territory and we have to familiarize ourselves with their personality and temperament.
If we are fortunate, we get to spend years with our new family member. But, we also know with a sense of silent expectancy that we may outlive our pets. It seems common for smaller dogs to have a longer life expectancy than bigger breeds, as they can reach an age of up to sixteen in human years, whereas bigger breeds live up to approximately age eleven; but sometimes older.
Although we strive to provide our furry friends with the best possible care, they also age and they are also prone to certain illnesses and disease and when such an unfortunate event occurs, it causes much heartache for us as pet parents. There are many elderly people who own pets and these animals may be their only companions. So, they become very attached to them.
When our beloved pet gets really old or he or she falls ill, we are faced by which we could only describe as one of the most heart-wrenching decisions and that is to keep our beloved pet around and to provide him or her with the best care possible, or we have to allow them to cross the Rainbow Bridge.
Whether our furry friend has aged or fallen ill, facing the fact that we stand to lose our best friend, a family member, our companion; we cannot help but experience the same type of pain associated with the loss of a loved one. This affects adults and children alike and the pain is much more severe for children, as this is usually their first experience with loss.
Many people have experienced the loss of a pet due to old age or illness. But, when our furry friend falls ill, we are sometimes faced by difficult decisions and many a pet parent have asked themselves what the right and most humane decision would be and whether we have the right to make this decision? Who are we to decide whether they should live or whether we should allow them to cross over? This is a difficult decision and one which should not be taken lightly.
What we should consider in such an event, is whether our pet still has any quality of life? Is he or she still eating and still interacting with us or their furry counterparts? Does he or she still seem comfortable and happy? However, these questions do not make it any easier and it does not take the pain away.
Although there are many people who do not understand this, the loss of a beloved pet can cause the same emotions and pain, as when we lose a loved and some of these emotions may include the following:
We are after all our pet’s caregiver(s) and it is normal for some people to feel guilty after the loss of a pet. One may blame yourself for their illness and for not taking better care of him or her. This also happens when a pet died as a result of an accident and one may feel that you could have somehow prevented it.
Children are also often stricken by guilt after the loss of a pet and may feel that they are in some way responsible. But this is both normal and human, as we become so attached to our furry friends and guilt is one of the emotions following loss. We always seem to feel that we could have or should have done more.
Because of our attachment to them, it is normal to go through a phase of denial. It is not easy to admit the fact that we have lost our furry friend. By admitting that we have lost our beloved pet, we somehow feel compelled “to get over it”. But instead, suddenly our lives and our “routine” has changed. Where one would have been greeted by a wagging tail every morning, this is suddenly replaced by an “emptiness”.
It is more difficult for children to accept loss and they too may experience denial, as it is also easy to forget about the loss for a split second and your child may hurry home from school, excited to play with their furry friend. But, then the realization sets in that he or she is no longer around.
We normally experience anger when our beloved pet was taken by illness or an accident. This anger may be directed at the illness itself or at the person responsible for the accident, or even your local Veterinarian. And although it is helpful to express our emotions, anger does not help us to heal from the loss.
Children may also experience anger, but they are more prone to picking up on the emotions and reactions of their parents. Thus, if a child sees that his or her parents are angry about the loss, they will most likely experience this anger too.
It is not uncommon for people to suffer from depression, following a loss. Although this can happen to anyone, this generally happens to elderly people or lonely people who only had the companionship of their beloved pet. Sometimes the loss is just too much to bear that one cannot help but feel so affected by the loss.
Although the loss of a furry friend can affect us in so many different ways, there are methods which can help us to cope better with the pain and loss.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
The best thing to do after losing a beloved pet is to acknowledge your feelings. Never disregard your feelings and process what you are going through. Should you feel the need to cry, then go ahead and cry; this is normal. Also do not allow others to tell you how you should feel or that it was “just a dog”. This was a member of your family and you are allowed to feel saddened by the loss.
One should also discuss the loss with children, as they should know that it is normal to feel sad. One should help them face their feelings and help them through the process of mourning. We should encourage them to discuss how they feel.
Talk About Your Feelings
In order for us to heal, it is important that we talk about the loss. The biggest mistake which people make, is to ignore it and by not being open about their feelings. One should talk openly to your family or close friends. There are many people who have also lost pets, who would be able to sympathize with your loss.
It is also vitally important to talk to your children and to allow them to openly discuss their feelings with you. The more we are able to talk about loss, the more the pain subsides and eventually we reach a point when we would rather reflect on the pleasant memories we share of our beloved pet.
Seek Professional Support
Although this may seem extreme to some, it is sometimes necessary to seek professional support. For many the loss seems so overwhelming that the need arises to seek out support groups which can help one cope with the loss. If you should feel the need to do so, you should never feel ashamed about it. Loss is never easy to bear and support groups can help you through this difficult time.
Adopt Another Pet
This would probably be the quickest and easiest way to take your mind off your recent loss. However, adopting another pet is not necessarily the correct solution. One should give yourself time to grieve and you need not feel pressurized in any way, neither should you place any pressure on your family.
Many people also feel that they would be disloyal if they adopted another pet. Ultimately the best would be to give yourself enough time to allow your heart to heal. You will be able to open your heart again to another furry friend. Although it may seem that one would never get over the pain of losing a beloved pet, we should never lose sight of the fact that although we may outlive them, we will never run out of love for them and it is out of this love that we should allow them to cross the Rainbow Bridge when it is time for them to heed us goodbye.
Love, The PetsWell Team
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