Erin Grahn MA LPCC LAC
Coping with Pet Loss
Updated: Apr 14, 2018
Do you have a furry (or not so furry) family member? The four-legged family members outnumber the two-legged family members within my household (see insert of one of our four-legged family members, our great dane, Norman. My husband was concerned that putting Norm's picture on this blog post would lead people to believe that he passed away - which he has not - he is full of piss & vinegar and constantly intervening on any attention that we give to our geriatric Chihuahuas!).
They provide unconditional love, are always excited to see you, and life would not be the same without them.
But with all of the joy (and annoyance and naughty behaviors too!) our pets often only get to share a snippet of time with us during the course of our lives. It may not feel fair when they have to leave.
Knowing that our pets have to leave is not easy. Knowing that you may have to make a decision to allow your pet to go into a forever sleep is difficult. The idea of having to adjust to life without their sheer excitement for when you return from picking up the mail, which only took five minutes, is painful to imagine.
So how does one cope and decide what to do?
People say, "You will know when it's time." And it's true. You will know.
Coping with making end of life decisions for your pet can occur in various ways. Some people look for signs, such as a pet isolating his or herself, going into hiding, or offering more love and affection than they typically do. Consulting with your veterinarian will help you determine an overall prognosis and allow you to explore options. Some people elect to use the 'wait it out' approach; others may utilize veterinarian services to assist and may elect to be present with their pet during the process or not. Many people consider the quality of life of their pet and whether their pet is suffering to assist them in making a decision. Others may seek support from family and friends or utilize poems. The poem, "The Last Battle" by an unknown author may provide comfort:
If it should be that I grow frail and weak And pain should keep me from my sleep, Then will you do what must be done, For this -- the last battle -- can't be won.
You will be sad I understand, But don't let grief then stay your hand, For on this day, more than the rest, Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years, You wouldn't want me to suffer so. When the time comes, please, let me go. Take me to where to my needs they'll tend.
Only, stay with me till the end And hold me firm and speak to me Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree It is a kindness you do to me. Although my tail its last has waved, From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you Who has to decide this thing to do; We've been so close -- we two -- these years, Don't let your heart hold any tears.
- Author Unknown
Once your pet is gone it may take time to get used to the 'norm' within your home. And your home may feel less full, bright, and warm. If you find that you continue to experience challenges with grief related to the loss of your pet please know that services are available to provide support to you in your grief journey. As the above quoted poem stated, "Don't let your heart hold any tears."
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