Health

Coping With Losing A Pet ❤️

I love animals.  I mean really love animals. I would have a houseful of everything from horses to hamsters if I could. As it is we have 4 cats, but recently lost the most recent addition, a stray named Morris, also known as Fatface.  Morris’ story has been documented on this blog, culminating in  Saving Fatface: A Sad Ending

Prior to losing Morris, the last time I lost an animal was about 15 years ago when our cat Narla had to be put to sleep,  and I had quite forgotten just how hard it is. On both occasions, I was absolutely floored for a few days, cried my heart out until I felt I didn’t have any tears left, and exhibited some very unusual behaviours (more of which later).

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Narla was an elderly Abyssinian and when her liver and other organs starting shutting down, I knew it was time to say goodbye. As with Morris, I was invited to hold her as she slipped away. Afterward, the vet left me to say goodbye to her and I found myself taking photographs of her as she lay on the vets table.  Unusual behaviour number 1.  Odd? Maybe… But the most important thing to remember when coping with a loss is that all behaviours and feelings are quite normal and you need to do whatever works for you to get through it. Trying to not think about it, or avoid it, will only put off the inevitable. Taking time to grieve and accepting the loss of your pet is essential for allowing you to move on.

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If you have had to make the decision to put a pet to sleep there are often associated feelings of guilt. Try and remember that you ended your pet’s life because you wanted what was best for them. Being able to put an animal out of their distress and pain is a privilege and something we do not have the luxury of doing when humans are suffering.

Do not  let anyone tell you how to feel. You are in charge of your own grief. Take your time to get over it and don’t get into pointless arguments with people who say ‘It’s only a cat/dog/rabbit’.  I remember having a wild urge to attack a work colleague who uttered those heartless words when I lost Narla. I’m not even going to say that that is unusual behaviour, though perhaps it would have been had I acted on my urge!

When Morris was put to sleep, I brought him home from the vet and was sat in the hall crying and holding his paws when Andy came home. Andy gently persuaded me to put Morris upstairs until later when he could prepare the garden for his burial. I couldn’t leave him alone upstairs and sat in the lounge holding him wrapped in a blanket for most of the afternoon.  Unusual behaviour number 2. However odd that may seem, it gave me some comfort.

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We had a funeral for little Morris and although I think that also helped, I struggled over the next few days and nights thinking that he was cold in the ground. I had a persistent urge to exhume him and make him warm again. That particular urge, you will be happy to know, I resisted, but it was definitely unusual behaviour number 3. I also had fantasises of phoning the vet and begging her to resuscitate him, as if that were even possible.

I mention all of these to reassure you that whatever bizzare thoughts you may have when coping with the loss of a pet, they are all perfectly normal, and a way of dealing with and processing your grief. And grief IS a process, something to be worked through with its various stages which include anger and denial.

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Understanding you are going through a bereavement is a positive first step.  Crying will help and it is essential that you talk about your feelings with whoever will listen. Andy was great, but I found my mum and my daughter were amazing when it came to listening to me sobbing down the phone for hours on end.

Use what you believe in to help. If you have faith in an after life or the ‘rainbow bridge’ that is often mentioned, take comfort and solace in those thoughts.

Social media is great for getting support from like minded people. The response I had from my post about Morris on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook was just incredible, and helped me to realise that I wasn’t alone in what felt like a very dark place at times in those first few days. Especially when I looked at his food bowls and toys and revisited those places in the house and garden where he liked to sit.

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Give yourself the time to grieve. It may take a week, a month or a year to come to acceptance.  It needs to be worked through at your own pace. Unfortunately it’s usually not possible to take time off work and other responsibilities to grieve,  but sticking with your normal routines may actually help.

Do not cut yourself off and hide away. Get outside as much as you can and book a couple of day trips or even a holiday if you are able to, to give yourself something to look forward to.

Memorialise your pet in a way that will be helpful for you. Perhaps by making a scrap book or a photo album. Write down your feelings if that helps, though that may be difficult in the early days.

Focus on all the wonderful times you had with your pet and what a amazing life you were able to give him or her. Celebrate that time you had together!

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The old adage that ‘time heals’ is absolutely true and although it is hard, you will come to terms with it and move on with your life. This is not a betrayal of your pet and nor does it mean that you have forgotten them. You will always have wonderful memories of the time you had together and the love you shared, and nothing can take that away. ❤️

“Don’t cry because it’s over, Smile because it happened.”

– Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

 

 

35 replies »

  1. A very good post. Everyone mourns in his/her own way in any case, whether a pet or person. I would also have horses to hamsters, so I know how much you love animals. The only thing that keeps me from getting anything else is that we travel a lot. So no chickens, even. I have 2 – 14 year old dogs, and on who’s 10. It’s gonna be rough.

    • Thank you so much for reading. That’s absolutely the reason why we don’t have more animals. I love my holidays but I hate to leave my 3 cats!

  2. I cried when my adorable hamster dude friends died, it’s a very upsetting thing as animals are such fabulous beings. But I find, over time, what’s left are amazing memories of their time with us.

  3. I had to put my sweet schnoodle Dusty down 6 months ago. I cried so much I didn’t think I had any left. He was 13 years old. Broke my heart into a million pieces. I still cry from time to time and I miss him everyday. So, I completely understand your pain and behavior. He got a little sweater for Christmas last year, that sweater is on the pillow next to mine.

    • Ah bless you that’s so lovely. How hard it is! I hope you are beginning to come to terms with it and are thinking about a new pet to shower with love. Not as a replacement but as a different little character that would have a better life with you then they do now…. ❤️

  4. Talk about timing, I’m still grieving my beloved Rhiannon. Rhi was an 11 year old Sheltie. On Sept. 22, we woke up to what could only be described as a bloody crime-type scene. She had started bleeding sometime late in the night and it was all over the living room floor when we got up. When I saw it, my heart shrank, I knew it was going to be my last day with her. We rushed her off to the vet who confirmed my fears. My husband and I got a little more time with her and then she was helped to slip off into the veil and out of my hands. I’m still crying at odd times. I had her cremated and we have her paw print and the box here now.

    I got busy trying to find a baby who would help me at least bandage the hole she left in my heart. I finally found one after days of reading boards. We’re getting Symphany’s Blackhawk Sullivan on November 9th. What told me that he was the one was the breeder told me he was born on September 22, the day I lost Rhi. It felt like she knew I was hurting and made sure I would have another baby to love. We have another sheltie, Isis, who is still looking everywhere for her sister. I am hoping Sully will help her feel better as well.

    Thanks for writing that, it did help me feel better about missing Rhi.

    • Thank you so much for leaving this wonderful comment and I know you also left one on FB and thank you for showing me the picture – beautiful. I hope you are beginning to feel better about Rhi, you could not have done any more and she had a wonderful life with you. I love the idea of the paw print. I had Narla cremated and had her ashes in a box in the windowsill for years til Andy finally persuaded me to bury them in the garden. I wish that I had had Morris cremated now, I worried constantly that he was cold in the ground for the first few days and I think it would have been better to scatter his ashes. Andy is going to plant a tree where he is buried however, so I will always mark the spot. It’s making me tearful again writing this! It’s so hard isn’t it! ❤️❤️

  5. I had a dog named Copper. I was about 5 years old when we got him. He died when I was 19. I was out with friends one day, when I came home I was told he was put to sleep. I made myself a promise to always be there for all of my pets when that day happens. Since then I have held them all on that last day. It is draining. It is a terrible day, but it’s worth it. They are worth it.

    This was a special post. I’m happy I came across it. Animal lovers are special people. You are special for writing this. Thank you.

    • Thank you Bryan… yes I absolutely need to be there at the end. Seems the very least I can do but my heart breaks as they slip away. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment ❤️

  6. Ahhhh animals, we could sit and talk for hours then because I freakin LOVE animals (dogs are my favourite but I love them all). I think when one of my pets pass (and I can tell your the same) that I give them some an amazing home and there is another one out there that deserves to experience that to. I think I pick them but no I am convinced they pick me <3 It is never ever easy and each one gives you a piece of your heart, you don't lose that part your heart just keeps expanding with the unconditional love.

    • I absolutely agree! I think I like animals more than a lot of people!! They are so easy to be with and expect so little but give back so much. I am already planning taking on another rescue and will probably go for the saddest animal that has been there the longest and no one else wants. If I could, I would rescue them all! ❤️

    • Thank you so much. It still really hurts. And absolutely they are a part of the family which is why we love them so much ❤️

  7. Just breaks my heart in a million pieces reading this post, having lost my dear cat recently. Thank you for writing this, exactly what my guilty soul needs.

    • Oh bless you I hope you are ok… it’s so hard I know. I was inspired to write the post having lost Morris AKA Fatface, the week before and it may help reading that post to. I also felt incredibly guilty so this is a perfectly normal response. Try and concentrate on what a wonderful life your cat had with you. Sending much love xxx

  8. Great post! And nothing weird in your reactions – grief isn’t weird or normal or anywhere in between. It just ‘is’.
    When Floyd shuffled off, I was kinda lucky to have Minnie to keep my thoughts elsewhere. She’d arrived at 6 weeks old (too young, but her original humans were – how to put this nicely – impatient) and Floyd just snapped into ‘You’re the Butler – I’ll be the Daddy’ as soon as he saw her. They hadn’t spent any time apart in all the time since she arrived – he basically taught her how to be a cat, and in particular how to manipulate the Butler.
    When we got back from the vet, he was in his carrier, snugged up in the hoodie he’d claimed many years previously: Minnie was curious, so I put the carrier on the rug and opened the door. She went straight over, gave him a chirrup, head-bump and a slight groom, had something to eat and then just sat for a while watching him.
    Was she working out what was up? I have no idea. But watching her there and then sort of helped a little.
    (I still talk to Floyd when I’m out in the garden. 🙂 )

    • Ah that is so LOVELY! Minnie sounds like a very astute pussy cat. But then… aren’t they all! Thank you for sharing x

  9. That’s a great post. I am still in the depths of grief after losing our last cat. All day I held her dead body in a blanket until we buried her in the garden. You are so right – there is no correct way to grieve.

    • Oh bless you – I’m so glad I’m not the only one who did that. Andy had to physically take Morris from me, I didn’t want to let him go in the ground … I hope you are OK now x

      • My husband is called Andy, too. I was brought up in a conservative Roman Catholic home where we always saw and touched the body. To me it is comforting to absolutely ‘know’ that the person/cat has passed on. Now I am taking some pleasure in being free of looking after elderly cats but still miss Toffee – she was the sweetest feral. K x

      • It’s a double edged sword isn’t it. When cats are ill and need a lot of looking after it’s so draining, but I wouldn’t be without them. I already plaguing my Andy to let me take in another stray! 😬

  10. My reply got lost in the ether! My husband is called Andy, too. I was brought up in a conservative Roman Catholic family and we always kissed the dead goodbye – human or animal. It was so lovely to hold Toffee until I felt her spirit depart – not sad, just a long goodbye. K x

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