I have not written a post in some time and now I’d like to share what I have been experiencing over the past few months. I have been grieving the loss of my dear little dog Mackenzie. This is the first time for me to go through the actual process of nursing his ailing health in hopes of recovery, to realizing a decision has to be made in regard to his quality of life, to making the decision and booking the date he crosses the Rainbow Bridge. Grieving the loss of your dog is never easy. It’s s an emotional roller coaster.
The bond that we have with our pets is so great, that when we lose them, it is often difficult for family or friends to understand the grief we are going through.
I went to the internet to read about grieving and found The Whirlpool of Grief – Stages of Grieving by Dr Richard Wilson.
It is a useful, thought provoking illustration. It shows a river running into a waterfall then into a whirlpool and then on to a stream. The theory in relation to grief is as follows; the river and the journey along it, represent the everyday journey of life.
River of Life
As we journey along the River of Life we will experience smooth and rough times. When we lose a family member or friend it’s as if we are falling uncontrollably. Our emotions are out of control and we feel lost.
Waterfall of Bereavement
This is the Waterfall of Bereavement. For many people, a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” Pets are beloved members of the family and, when they die, you feel a significant, even traumatic loss. It is common to feel shock or numbness and you may find yourself in denial. This can explain the feeling that your loved one is about to return home or you may wonder what they are doing only to remember they have gone.
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. Some people find grief comes in stages, where they experience different feelings such as denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Others find that grief is more cyclical, coming in waves, or a series of highs and lows. The lows are likely to be deeper and longer at the beginning and then gradually become shorter and less intense as time goes by. Still, even years after a loss, a sight, a sound, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief.
Suffering a bereavement and going through grief can be exhausting. You may experience physical symptoms and suffer from sleep loss. This is often described as being on the rocks. It is important to remember these feelings will pass.
It is important that you allow yourself time to grieve. Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. Feeling all washed up or in extreme cases suffering an emotional breakdown can be traced back to not acknowledging the strength of loss and how it has affected you. By expressing your grief, you’ll likely need less time to heal than if you withhold or “bottle up” your feelings.
The Reality of Absence
Once the mourning has passed and you start to accept a life without your pet, reality will kick in and your life can start to regain some sense of normality. Yes, you will still feel an absence, but this should grow less with time. During this period, you might find it helpful to create a tribute or memorial to your pet. We are often told of the comfort that this brings and it is a great way to keep the memory of your pet alive. Personally, I put a photo of Mackenzie on my desk where I work during the day and took a clipping of his tail hair that I can touch when I am missing him.
In time you will stop mourning and accept your new reality. You will reorganize your routines and may consider opening your heart to another pet. There will be moments where there are setbacks, like birthdays and anniversaries. Consequently, this may stir up old emotions, but hopefully, this will become less painful and you will look back on the time you spent together with happiness