As each of us knows all too well, losing a pet is devastating. The emotions we 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.
It’s important to remember that there is no ‘right’ way to feel, no ‘normal’ length of time to grieve. You may feel bereft and hollow for weeks, or you may feel calm and accepting of your loss within days. Each and every scenario is your ‘normal’ and cannot be altered by well-meaning friends and colleagues telling you to ‘buck your ideas up’. 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, although it does become manageable as time passes. It really does. The intense feelings of loss, anger and pain do become less raw as the months inevitably go by. 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 process takes is impossible to predict and 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 for certain 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 the 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
Until then, don’t put yourself under pressure to feel ‘back to normal’, especially as the parameters of ‘normal’ in your life have now been changed. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty that you can’t yet get past your grief, and give yourself the time to heal. And hard as it may be, try not to begrudge friends and family enjoying precious time with their pets . In your head and your heart, permit them the joy that comes from the special bond between us and our pets for as long as it lasts, and remember fondly the many happy times shared with your own dear friend.
Know that the pain will ease and in time comes new hope and strength.
Lots of love from Shailen and The Ralph Site team,
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support
Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.