Loss, and the resulting heartache,
is a part of life.
And usually we’re faced with doing the best we can to manage the sorrow left behind, and carry on with our day-to-day responsibilities. Yet, at such a time, we are hampered by unrecognized, unacknowledged, and untended symptoms of grief.
This is especially true after pet loss. Naturally, if a person dear to us passes away; we are very accepting of the complex emotions which follow the loss. We are expected to grieve, and those around us are accepting of our behavior.
But, what happens when it’s a beloved pet which has died? Are our friends, family and co-workers equally as accepting? And for that matter, are we accepting of our own grief – or do we simply try to function “on top” of the feelings?
I’ve lost many canine, feline, and avian animal companions over the years. Each passing has brought up many strong feelings associated with grief: anger, sadness, and sometimes even guilt. And because the loss was “minimized” by those around me, I felt forced to “move on” too soon – or simply stop talking about the death of a treasured companion.
“After all,” they say, “it was just a dog,” “only a cat,” or “just a parakeet.” The fact that this wonderful animal had been a stalwart companion for over fourteen years – or ten, or even just five – wasn’t considered important.
So, how do you heal after such an undervalued loss, when others discount your grief? How do you recognize, and manage, the symptoms of grief you’re experiencing – successfully healing the heartache?
[pullquote]We stood in the dusky light, and shared our memories of this sweet being who shared our lives for such a short time.[/pullquote]
Let Me Share a Story
In 1999, when I lost my “best buddy” Gus, a Boston Terrier, I was rather surprised by the depth of my emotional reaction. He had lived with us for only three years, having come into the family as a stray. By the time he died, my sons were only ten and nine – so they were very attached to him. During the last weeks of his life, all three of us tended to his physical needs; in fact, I consider Gus my “first” hospice client. What you’re about to read comes from two sources: my personal experience of pet loss, and the knowledge I’ve gained working as a funeral service professional.
#1: Create Ceremony
When Gus finally passed, in the words of Dylan Thomas, “into that good night”; I realized we needed to bury him with ceremony. I turned to a funeral home in our area which offered pet cremation services. When his remains were returned to us, we chose to bury his ashes in our back yard. My sons and I sang “All You Need is Love,” the Beatles classic, as we dug his grave in our yard. I carried his ashes, wrapped in his favorite blanket, and placed them in the hole we had dug – and then we sang some more as we filled in the hole, placed abalone shells (his favorite toys) around the site, and lighted candles within each shell. As night was coming, the beauty of the scene was breathtaking. We stood in the dusky light, and shared our memories of this sweet being who shared our lives for such a short time.
#2: Memorialize Your Pet
The boys and I were runners. Entering local 10k events and training together was a big part of our homeschool experience. So, it was natural for us to stage the “Gussie Memorial 5k Run” in our local state park where we commonly trained. We each created a t-shirt to wear that day, and after the event (exclusive as it was – we were the only participants!), we shared a picnic lunch where we spent our time sharing memories and laughing. Yes, there were some tears, but mostly laughter.
Part 2 of this story to be continued next week.
Guest Contribution By: Funeral Home Gifts
Prize sponsor for our Christmas Pet Photo Contest!
Funeral Home Gifts weaves beautiful tapestry Tribute Blankets and offers them through death care providers throughout North America. Tribute Blankets provide ongoing comfort to families grieving over the loss of cherished pets. The blanket, personalized with a photo of their pet, actually helps them get through the dark days and months after a death. Loved ones cuddle up with the blanket every night and many families keep the blanket displayed in their homes, keeping the memory alive.
To enroll with Funeral Home Gifts as a provider of Tribute Blankets to your families, or to identify a provider near you, contact Gina Richards at Funeral Home Gifts – 800-233-0439 ext. 214 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.