Friday, January 24, 2020

Remembering Beloved Pets

October 8, 2010 by Diane  
Filed under Pet Loss, Remembrances

When I close my eyes and allow visions of my childhood animal companions to arise, I can 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 doll carriage, and, from my teen years, my cat Elvis lazing in a sun patch in the front hall. Fast forward to early adulthood, and my three dachshunds appear in my vision: Schultzy, who liked to sleep with his nose buried in my armpit and chew underwear; Sarah, who hardly had a chance to grow beyond puppy-hood; and Leroy, a rescue, who became my children’s touchstone during difficult times (a major move, a divorce). And later, my three felines: the beautiful and proud Kitty, dear placid Mary and the amazing orange wonder Tommy. 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 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 is 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 form 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. A pet’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 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 can often 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. Sky and I have since welcomed a very fun boy named Lenny into our hearts.

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