Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Losing a Beloved Friend

March 5, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Random Thoughts, Remembrances

When I close my eyes and allow visions of my childhood animal companions to arise, I see my little dog Bitsy playing in the yard, my cat Silky dressed up in doll clothes with my little sister pushing her around in a buggy, and, from my teen years, my cat Elvis lazing in a sun patch. Fast forward to early adulthood, and my three dachshunds appear in my vision: Schultzy, who liked to sleep with his nose buried under my arm; Sarah, who hardly had a chance to grow beyond puppy-hood; and Leroy, a rescue, who became my daughters’ touchstone during difficult times (a major move, a divorce). Later, my three felines: the beautiful and proud Kitty, dear placid Mary and the amazing orange wonder Tommy. All gone now. My memories bring smiles.

Eyes open, I see my sleeping cats: the oh-so  narcissistic Rocky and sweet blue-eyed Sky. I smile. And yet I know someday they too will move out of my life.

We who choose to live with other sentient beings are blessed. We get to experience a deep connection with another species (to the extent we are open to it) and in doing so, expand our capacity to give and receive love.

With the death of a cherished pet, some of us find ourselves flooded with a grief that suprises and overwhelms us with its intensity. Following are a few insights and suggestions to assist you during this time.

Allow: Honor yourself and your beloved friend by allowing the expression of feelings. Give yourself permission to fully grieve, even if it feels scary. It may mean some restless nights, exhaustion, and/or taking some time off your regular routine to just be. As much as possible, give yourself this time.

Ask: Reach out to trusted family and friends and let yourself be supported. If for any reason this is not possible, there are resources available in the forms of books, counselors, and pet bereavement sites on the internet. This applies also if your pet is still living but going through a terminal illness. It is crucial to be supported at this confusing and painful time that can bring up doubts about what is the right thing to do, and asks so much of you as a caregiver holding the high watch over your pet.

Action: Find a way to express your feelings. Write a letter to your animal companion, make a painting or photo collage, or arrange a memorial service or ritual to honor your pet. It could be a simple gathering of others who knew and loved your pet, with stories and remembrances to celebrate her life.

Above all, remember it is okay to grieve. An animal companion’s death is significant. This is a being you have had daily contact with, whose essence is clearly imprinted on every aspect of your home and your heart. This is a being that has loved and known you. A family member.

The passing of a pet can often be a child’s first experience with death. This gives parents an opportunity to assist their child through the grieving process. Unresolved grief from childhood often can have a negative effect on personal growth and development later in life. There are some wonderful books written for children on the death of a pet, and many resources on the internet to assist you in understanding how children perceive death at different ages.

As I write this, Rocky sits patiently watching the robins…

This was written before Rocky died on  May 30th 2008. Sky and I have since welcomed a very fun boy named Lenny into our home and hearts. Below is a photo of Rocky in his favorite place.


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