How long will I feel like this?

No set way to feel, no normal time to grieve

Losing a pet is devastating. The emotions you experience cannot be fully understood or mitigated by planning or expectation. If your pet has borne a terminal illness, knowing that the end is coming is no less painful than one that arrives unannounced.

Similarly, there is no ‘right’ way to feel; no ‘normal’ length of time to grieve. Some people find it helpful to look for a timeline of grief, so that they can see a glimmer of light ahead, identifying a time when they might start to feel better again.

‘Time heals’ we often hear. Those of us who have been through bereavement know that the pain never magically goes away, but it does become manageable as time passes. The intense feelings of loss, anger and pain do become less raw as the months inevitably tick on. With a physical injury, the wound heals with time and we are left with a scar. The same is true with emotional pain, our hearts and our minds draw a veil over the immediate pain, but a scar remains. With time we can remember our lost friends with a smile instead of a tear.

Just how long this takes is difficult to measure. It will be different for each of us and with every pet, as a wide range of factors affect our handling of grief. So whilst we may not be able to say, “you’ll feel better in x weeks”, we can say that with time, you will start to notice the signs of healing:

  • You have more good days than bad
  • Energy and motivation levels increase
  • Memories are fond, rather than traumatic
  • You can think constructively about the loss of your loved one and its impact on your life
  • Sleep patterns return to normal
  • You feel optimistic about the future
  • Performance at work improves
  • You’re able to focus on personal health and wellbeing
  • Relationships feel more functional and healthy
  • You feel as though you are ‘re-joining the human race’
  • You begin to seek emotional and physical intimacy again

You’ll find more thoughts on the myth of the grief timeline here.

And as always, there’s a huge range of resources available at The Ralph Site.

With very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team

3 thoughts on “How long will I feel like this?

  1. michele brown

    I follow you on FB and often reply to those who seem to feel the way I do, even though my Susie left us in October 2012. We lost her literally within 2 days of her suddenly showing signs of what we now know was Addison’s Disease (she had a seizure on the Monday evening which they called an Addison’s Crisis), we took her to our vet hospital, brought her back home while they waited for results (we did not want her away from us) and on the Wednesday just after I returned from work (I still am convinced that she waited for me to come home) she passed away in her basket (she lost the use of her legs the day before) surrounded by all of us. Saddest day ever and I think that I feel it the most of all the family is because on the Friday I was diagnosed with breast cancer and couldn’t cope for ages because all I wanted was Susie beside me as she was very intuitive when things were wrong and I just know that she would have helped me through by just being next to me. I also have feelings of guilt that we didn’t know anything was wrong with her as it happened so fast – but I will never ever forget my beautiful girl we had her for almost 10 years from a rescue and thank goodness she had a happy life with us for that I am very pleased. xx

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    1. TheRalphSite Post author

      Hi Michele,

      Thanks for your comment and for being active in supporting others on the Facebook page. I know many people really appreciate the support they get there.

      Please don’t feel guilty about Susie and not realising she was unwell. I am a specialist in veterinary Emergency and Critical Care so a disease like Addison’s is one that I am very familiar with. We refer to it as the ‘great pretender’ because it can present in so many forms and often the signs are very vague or totally absent until a crisis occurs. There are many people who do not realise their pet has it until a crisis occurs. The signs that you describe I would say are pretty exceptional for this disease so Susie was it seems just very very unlucky but I don’t think you should blame yourself.

      Take care,
      Shailen

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  2. Hannah Thomas

    I’d like to add something here that has really been helpful to me. Physical exercise releases endorphins which make us feel better and it’s also a way to release grief through physical activity. When I hit the treadmill or the punching bag, it’s a way to let it out, to run it off, expressing it through the motion of my body and I feel so much better afterward. Sometimes the loss of a pet means we lose a regular exercise routine and spend more time indoors, which contributes to feeling down. I still cry, I still miss my wonderful companion, but the exercise makes it easier to manage.

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