What Does It Feel Like To Grieve For A Pet?

What does it feel like to grieve for a pet? Much the same as grieving for a family member or close friend because on many occasions the pet has become just that - a family member and close friend.

To deny the intense loss of a pet is to deny the love and devotion you shared yet I know that even with massive support from family and friends, I felt guilty at grieving the loss of Murphy when Mum died. I somehow felt that I should grieve more for my Mum because that was expected of me. Now who exactly expected it, I'm not sure because my Mum certainly wouldn't have wanted me to feel that pressure and I know that my Dad understood so I must have put that pressure on myself.

It has taken me a long time to admit that the loss of Murphy was more intense than the loss of my Mum. That's not to say that my Mum meant less but it was a different kind of love and therefore a different kind of loss.

Joe Yonan, in his Washington Post column, described his intense loss when his dog Red passed away. He had had his fair share of family death but relates that nothing came close to how he felt when Red died. Reading his article brought comfort in knowing that I was not alone but he also helped to explain that part of that intensity was probably caused by the loss of all the physical aspects that go along with having a pet. I spent 16 years caring for Murphy - she was never going to grow up and leave home or gain independence: She was always going to need me, so I adapted my lifestyle to suit her. In many ways my world revolved around her so when she died there was that physical distortion of my daily routine to cope with as well.

In a study conducted by Sandra Barker at the Center for Human Animal Interaction it was found that many clients felt shame at their grief but "when they realise that the difference is that the pet gave them constant companionship and there was total dependency, then they start to realise that that's why they're grieving so intensely."

Perhaps owning the grief is essential before the process of grieving can really begin.

Grief is a journey and it's along a path that no one else can trod for you. The five stages of grief as described by Elizabth Kubler Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance are most definitely obvious stages for most of us but that's not to say that we each must experience all 5 or that the stages are sequential.

When I look back at the last year I can see that I probably did move through the first 3 stages but at the time it felt that I skipped them and went straight to depression. Then again on reflection that may have been because the loss of Murphy, then my Mum and then the loss of sight, mobility and independence due to the stroke all came together like a motorway car crash - all just bumping into one another.

Am I close to the final stage of acceptance? Truthfully I don't know but I suspect that by eventually opening up and admitting the guilt that I felt it is perhaps the beginning.
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imagine8ni imagine8ni
51-55, F
Sep 10, 2012