Greetings, everyone! We’ve all experienced the loss of a special furiend, or friend. Aunty Ellen and we have been talking about grieving, so I’d like to share a few thoughts. Some of these are based on what our petsitting mom has shared with us, and some are from our own observations. I have not yet had to grieve, but my roommate Felix has done several times.
When our peeps lose a pet, they experience many different kinds of grief. If an animal dies suddenly from an unexpected medical condition or an unfortunate accident, our humans suffer the most, because the loss of their dear pet was a total surprise. In those instances, it’s important for us remaining pets to offer them lots of rubs and purrs so they know we are grieving with them. We must also expect that our humans might be a little aloof because they are not thinking about US at the moment, but about the departed one. This type of grief can take a long time to subside.
In the case of a long illness, debilitating medical condition or just “old age,” grief takes a different form. Our humans have purrhaps started the grieving process ahead of time while the pet is still alive. Recognizing that the illness or condition will bring eventual loss may help our peeps cope more easily, and knowing that they can make the pet’s life more comfortable during the twilight time can bring much solace to them. When the animal finally passes on, our humans have had time to prepare and not feel guilty. We can really help at this time by just being as affectionate as we can, while not getting in the way.
In some cases, when a pet has a diagnosed condition, our peeps can be in denial or not ready to “cope” with the added care, procedures and expense that might be called for. As the animal’s condition worsens, our humans can often panic or search for extraordinary means of “making things better,” when it’s probably already beyond their control. When this type of pet succumbs to its condition, peeps can often have a terrible grieving period because they feel guilty at not having done enough. They may regard us remaining pets with some anger or frustration, but our job is just to “be there” and be ready to love and be loved when our human is ready.
When our peeps grieve, it’s important that they share their loss with special family and friends who are also animal lovers. This support group can offer a huge boost of love and energy when our peeps are depressed. Often, these good friends will send flowers, gifts or memorials of various kinds, and they all help ease the pain of loss.
In our household, we are lucky to have adequate land for pet burial plots and commemoration areas. Our mom has always held a “wake” for a departed furiend, and the remaining pets gather round to pay tribute and last respects to their late colleague.
Then, mom buries the dear departed pet in a special place in the garden. Friends have often sent floral gifts, plaques and even a weathervane to honor the lost pet.
Holding a wake, if it is possible, offers a way for our peeps to grieve with us, and we with them. It allows a celebration of the departed one’s life, and helps turn that pet’s life into a pawsitive and happy experience rather than a frustrating, depressing or failed one.
For pets who are cremated, it’s nice to also hold a celebration so that our humans and any remaining pets can commemorate the departed one’s life while not being able to still see or smell that dear pet. Some veterinarians and crematoria create “paw print” memory boxes so that our humans have something tangible to hold, touch and cherish in addition to their pet’s ashes.
Many peeps find it healing and therapeutic to create a memory book of their dear departed pets. It can contain photographs, stories, comments from friends and admirers or whatever else helps celebrate the departed pet’s life and adventures. Bloggers have a rich source of memory material with which to honor their departed furiends.
Grieving the loss of a pet is sometimes more acute than grieving the loss of another human family member or friend. Our peeps must know and feel that we grieve with them, and we also grieve for them when they are ill, bedridden, depressed or anxious. We pets help ease our humans’ pains, stress and worries, and we are grateful when they accord us the same honor as we age, get ill or meet an unexpected end to a glorious life.
Grieving is an essential part of healing, and we in the animal kingdom sometimes understand this better than our humans do. Remember, rubs and purrs go a long way!
Thank you Maggie for this excellent post. I just want to add 2 links to other posts on grief that are well worth reading.