Monday, March 3, 2008

Coping with the loss

The nights were the hardest... have been sleeping on the couch in the living hall accompanied by Dolly...hardly slept well for the past 1 week...I still can't get the images out of my mind... and I am still blaming myself...

We can picture Benjy in everything we do and in every corner of the house, and we can vividly imagine her antics. Last Sunday, built a cemetery at our backyard for Benjy. Our neighbour, a good samaritan, helped us out in laying the bricks and cementing it.

There are still few work to do; paint it and place a pic.

I thank all my family members and my colleague, Kavitha for lending me their support and understanding my grief.

Recently, I surfed and found few good websites on how to cope with pet loss; one of it is the International Association of Pet Cemeteries. These websites help me to come into terms with the loss; and it does magically ease some of the pain. The following is an excerpt from the website ( in which I found solace and in which I can relate my grief to:

We grieve over the death of a pet. This reaction is only natural. Our feelings toward pets are so special that experts have a term for the relationship: the human-companion animal bond.When this bond is severed, the sense of loss can be overwhelming. Society does not offer a grieving pet owner a great deal of sympathy. Even a close friend may comment: .."It's only a dog..." or "she was a pretty cat. What are you going to get now?" Such a reaction would be heartless given the loss of a human friend or family member, and it is generally recognized that a person who has experienced such a loss needs the support of friends and relatives.Psychologists now acknowledge that we need as much support - but get far less - with the loss of a companion animal. Veterinarians realize that their final obligation to their pet patients also involves dealing with the pet owners' grief.

Preparation and learning to cope
The First Stage: Denial

Denial is the initial response of many pet owners when confronted with a pet's terminal condition or sudden death. This rejection seems to be the mind's buffer against a sharp emotional blow.

The Second Stage: Bargaining

This stage is well documented in the human grieving process. Many times, faced with impending death, an individual may "bargain" - offering some condition if the loved one is spared. The hope that a pet might recover can foster reactions like, "If Sam recovers, I'll never skip his regular walk . . . never put him in a kennel when I go on vacation, . . . never. . . "

The Third Stage: Anger

Recognizing anger in the grief process is seldom a problem; dealing with anger however, often is. Anger can be obvious, as in hostility or aggression. On the other hand, anger often turns inward, emerging as guilt. Many veterinarians have heard the classic anger response, "What happened? I thought you had everything under control and now you've killed my dog!" Another standard: "You never really cared about Rover. He was just another fee to you, and I'm the one who has lost my pet!"Such outbursts help relieve immediate, frustrations, though often at the expense of someone else. More commonly, pet owners dwell on the past. The number of "If only . . ." regrets are endless: "If only I hadn't left the dog at my sister's house . . ." "If only I had taken Kitty to the veterinarian a week ago . . ." Whether true or false, such recriminations and fears do little to relieve anger and are not constructive. Here, your veterinarian's support is particularly helpful.

The Fourth Stage: Grief

This is the stage of true sadness. The pet is gone, along with the guilt and anger, and only an emptiness remains. It is now that the support of family and friends is most important and sadly, the most difficult to find. A lack of support prolongs the grief stage. Therefore, the pet owner may want to seek some help from their veterinarian, pet cemeterian, or from a professional counselor. It is normal, and should be acceptable, to display grief when a companion animal dies. It is helpful, too, to recognize that other pet owners have experienced similar strong feelings, and that you are not alone in this feeling of grief. Don't ever feel embarrassed or ashamed. Your pain is very real and your loss a heavy one.

The Final Stage: Resolution

All things come to an end - even grieving. As time passes, the sadness evolves into memories of joyful times. And, more often than not, part of the remedy lies in a new pet, a new companion animal to fill the need for a pet in the household. Keep in mind, you're not replacing your beloved friend. Nothing can ever do that. You're filling a very deep void in your heart with new love for a new companion. It's time to complete the healing.

How We Feel

When a pet dies, there is no set ritual to formalize the grief. When services are arranged through a pet cemetery, requests such as a short viewing period for the family and friends, photos and a brief eulogy are not uncommon. Still, the loss of a pet affects our emotions, and all the more so if the pet was an integral part of the family. These feelings usually progress through several stages. Recognizing them can help us cope with the grief we feel.When a pet dies, there is no such social ritual to formalize the grief. To many, a funeral for the family pet would seem eccentric and a formal period of mourning bizarre. Even the immediate family and intimate friends may not fully understand the loss. Still, the loss of a pet affects our emotions, and all the more so if the pet was an integral part of the family. These feelings usually progress through several stages. Recognizing them can help us cope with the grief we feel.

Reading this made me realise that I am not alone and it eased some of my pain. What I have now is Benjy's memories and that in itself is precious. As for Dolly, Casper, and Prince - thanks for making me laugh at your hilarous antics...

No comments: