One of the most devastating experiences a person may go through is losing a beloved pet. Pets have a special place in our hearts and enrich our lives with happiness, solace, and friendship and as an in-home euthanasia veterinarian who has helped thousands of families, i often hear that the loss of their pet is felt as deeply, and in some cases, more deeply than the loss of a human family member. They are an essential component of our family and a part of our everyday routine.
We experience intense sadness and a sense of loss when they pass away. There are five stages of mourning that a person may experience as a natural reaction to the loss of a beloved companion. These phases are in no way to be followed sequentially, nor are they all experienced only once. They can be experienced multiple times or not at all and this can be a normal part of the healing process.
Stage 1: Denial Is The Initial Phase Of Mourning
People adopt denial as a coping strategy to escape the truth of their loss. When a pet dies, this is frequently the first reaction, and many may find it difficult to comprehend that their companion is no longer with them. It may be difficult for them to proceed because they may believe that their pet is still there and will return. Oftentimes this can appear as leaving your pet’s food dishes or bed in the same spot days or even weeks after your pet has passed.
It can be challenging for those who are trying to cope with their loss during this time, so it’s crucial to have a support system in place to guide them through it.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that denial is a common reaction to loss and that it’s acceptable to take the time necessary to accept it. It’s essential for people to eventually get past this stage and face the truth about their loss, though. They may become caught in their sorrow and be unable to move on if they refuse to accept the reality of the circumstance.
Stage 2: Anger Is The Second Phase Of Grieving
Anger is a common reaction to loss and frequently results from feeling helpless or no longer in control. Anger might be directed at a higher authority, a pet, the world, or even at oneself. They can feel as though they were not given enough time with their pet or that it was stolen from them too soon. The strength of the emotions during this period might be difficult to handle and can be overwhelming.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that anger is a normal phase of the grieving process, and people should be free to express their feelings in a constructive and healthy way. This may entail talking to friends and relatives, getting professional help, or engaging in physical activity to let out pent-up feelings.
Getting the assistance of a professional therapist or counselor is strongly recommended, especially if anger results in any negative behavior or harm. A professional therapist or counselor can help guide people through their emotions and teach them effective coping mechanisms.
Stage 3: Blame Is The Third Stage Of Sorrow
It is not uncommon for grieving individuals to catch themselves mentally reliving incidents and wondering what they could have done to prevent their pets death. Internal conversations centering around self blame can take place such as ‘why didn’t I notice the lump sooner?’ or blaming other individuals, like ‘why didn’t my vet make a recommendation for further testing?’. Scenarios like these can unfortunately lead an individual to circle back to other stages of grief and can lead to feelings of guilt, regret, depression and even anger. It is crucial to emphasize to people that while it is normal to wonder what exactly happened to cause their pet’s death, they did the best they could given the information and resources available to them at the time.
Concentrating on self-compassion and self-care is one strategy for getting through this stage. It might be beneficial to take care of oneself by partaking in enjoyable or comforting pursuits, such as being in nature, engaging in mindfulness or meditation, or pursuing artistic endeavors. Reflecting on those beautiful moments you shared with your beloved pet. Knowing that those memories will always be with you. Speaking with a therapist or counselor who can offer support and assist people in processing their feelings in a secure and healthy way can also be beneficial.
Stage 4: Depression Is The Fourth Stage Of Bereavement
The bereavement stage known as depression is the stage most of us think of when we consider emotions that a person suffering loss will experience. It can include profound grief, loneliness, and emptiness and a loss desire to engage with others around you or even engage in routine behaviors. People may struggle to enjoy simple pleasures and may become less outgoing in social situations. Physical symptoms like exhaustion, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping are also possible.
If depression overwhelms you or affects your ability to operate on a daily basis during this stage, it’s crucial to get professional treatment. For people who are having trouble controlling their symptoms, therapy, medication, and support groups can be useful resources.
Self-care and self-compassion are two coping mechanisms for the depressive state. This could entail looking for comforting or enjoyable pastimes, such spending time with loved ones, working out or doing physical activity, or indulging in creative endeavors.
Stage 5: Acceptance Is The Final Stage Of Mourning
The stage of acceptance is when a person accepts their loss and starts to move on. It is crucial to understand that acceptance does not imply that the person has forgotten about their pet or that they are no longer saddened by their loss but instead, they begin to come to grips with the mortality of their beloved pet and the circumstances surrounding their loss. Individuals experiencing this stage may fluctuate from periods of profound loss and sadness and sweet memories. Over time, it is hoped that the deeper feelings of sadness will be embraced by the sweet memories of the life you shared. Some tips that can help include making a monument or tribute such as a photo album, a specific piece of art, planting a tree, or making a contribution to a charity in your pet’s name can sometimes help during this healing process
For most pet parents, it can be unbearably challenging to lose a cherished pet, and healing from such a loss and giving yourself time, space and recognizing the need for social support can help provide . a framework for understanding and managing emotions during this trying time.
The phases of mourning provide a roadmap for people to comprehend and process their feelings, even though they may not be experienced in a sequential or predictable way. It’s critical to keep in mind that each person’s journey through grieving will be distinct because grief is a deeply personal and particular experience. Individuals can finally arrive at a point of healing and acceptance while still paying tribute to the memories of their cherished pet by embracing the process and getting help when necessary.
By Dr. Karen Whala, Co-founder of CodaPet!
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