Good Grief! Helping You Grieve The Loss Of A Pet
When our daughter Julie’s St. Bernard died, we buried her and thanked God for our “Mackie.” But each of us experienced grief over the loss of our beloved dog. This article teaches “good grief” concepts in the loss of your dog or other pet.
We bought our daughter Julie a St. Bernard five years ago. Each evening “Mackie” climbed up on my lap to take a nap (even after she was full grown)! A couple years later Mackie died of a kidney disease. We buried her under her favorite tree, made a marker, and thanked God for the wonderful gift of Mackie. But each of us experienced grief and pain over the loss of our beloved dog. This article will give you several guidelines to help you experience good grief as you suffer the loss of your pet.
As I share the following guidelines to help you grieve the loss of your pet, please keep in mind that each person’s grief process is as unique as the relationship between that pet and its owner. However, pet grief can be good grief.
3. THANK GOD FOR THE GIFT OF YOUR PET. God created the animals that become our cherished pets. Good grief comes when we begin to recognize that God is the giver of all good gifts, and dogs are definitely good gifts. Do something symbolic to give thanks and show respect for this wonderful gift from God. Cheri and I buried Mackie and made a makeshift concrete headstone in the ground over her grave. Just the other day my son went out and found the marker in the woods, cleaned it off, and spent a moment remembering Mackie fondly. Pets matter! You can give a donation to an animal shelter in honor of your pet. Other meaningful acts people have shared with me include writing a special poem or story, commissioning a painting of their pet from a photograph, or framing an enlarged photo to hang on the wall. A fairly new phenomenon is the Pet Cemetery, where you can actually bury your pet, place a marker, and bring flowers. The bottom line is this; it was your pet, and it is your pet grief - do something that is meaningful for you. It will make you feel good about yourself and your pet, and it will assist you in bringing good grief to your grief process.
4. SHARE YOUR PAIN. Pet grief hurts. Talk to someone you trust about what you are feeling. Grief is a painful process; don’t go through it alone. Most of us know someone who has experienced the pain of pet loss. Talk to them. There is a healing process (Good Grief) that occurs when we hear ourselves talking about our pain, our grief, our loss. And there is empathy when two people can share similar experiences. It helps to hear someone else say “I know how you feel, I’ve been there too.” It helps to know you are not alone in your feelings. If there is no one you can talk to in your immediate family or circle of friends, consider talking to your pastor, or joining a pet loss support group in your community. Check the internet, and you may be able to find a pet loss “blog” group to join.
6. BE A VOLUNTEER. Pet grief can consume you if you let it. This is a great opportunity to volunteer some time and energy to help someone else. You can volunteer some time at your local animal shelter. You could help feed the homeless at the local soup kitchen. Be a volunteer at your local church. And the list goes on. Volunteering is a healthy way to give something back to your church or community. Helping your fellow man is a good thing, and it makes you feel good about who you are. It takes your mind off your pet loss and the emptiness you feel, and helps the process of good grief.
8. DON’T REPLACE YOUR PET UNTIL YOU ARE READY. Statistics show that after the loss of a spouse, many people remarry too soon, because of the fear of loneliness. Pet grief can cause the same mistakes. Don’t be too anxious to fill the void left by your precious pet. Remember that every relationship is unique, just as every person and dog are unique. Pet grief can be immense for some, and can take significant time. How soon should you get a new pet? Experts disagree, but estimates range from a few weeks to a year. They do agree, however, that you should be sure you are emotionally ready to explore a totally new relationship before you get a new pet. They also agree that the vast majority of people can and do benefit from getting another pet, as long as they cherish each new pet relationship as unique and special. Do not expect your next pet to be like your last, but love the next one just as much. Each one is a fantastic, life-changing experience. And a part of the process of good grief is to replace that love relationship you had with that dog, with another dog or pet.
We all know that dogs and other pets are not human, but they certainly do bring a great deal of joy and happiness to our lives. (Andy Rooney says "The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.") The loss of a beloved pet should not be taken lightly or dismissed as unimportant. If you have lost a cherished dog or pet; if you are experiencing Pet Grief; use the suggestions we’ve outlined here to experience good grief, cherish the memories, and prepare yourself for your next awesome pet/owner relationship. Then go out and find that amazing dog or pet that can benefit from the love and affection only you can give.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Danny Presswood is a retired US Army Combat (Airborne) Chaplain, who traveled 17 countries and 10 islands. He and his wife Cheri now live in the wooded Ozarks hills of SW MO. Presently working on his Doctorate, Danny writes the Feature Articles for K-9 Outfitters, A Division of Damascus Road Enterprises, which offers a plethora of AWESOME discount, luxury, unique, and Handmade in the USA Online Dog Supplies. You’ll find K-9 Outfitters at http://www.Damascus-Road-Enterprises.com