There is a time when you know your pet’s life is coming to an end, but the timing isn’t there quite yet. This period is referred to as a “pre-loss bereavement time,” when you realize both emotionally and intellectually that your pet is going to die. This is the time you begin going through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is a pet loss limbo- you can’t get over the grief you feel for losing your pet because it hasn’t happened yet.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a medical doctor who knew that the way humans handled grief, death and dying needed to evolve. She wrote a landmark book called, “Death and Dying”. While researching the topic, she found that there was a procession of emotions when dealing with the finality of death. And importantly, instead of avoiding the terminally ill, we needed to include them in our lives.
Her work altered the landscape of how we handle death and has done much to help grow the hospice movement for people in need of support during their last days, weeks, or months. Not only should people continue to live their lives in the manner they want, but they should also be able to die the way they wish to also. Acknowledging that death is a natural part of life, leads to realizing integrating death into our lives makes sense, and it is so important to no longer isolate people who are dying from their lives and loved ones.
The knowledge that Kubler-Ross accrued regarding death and humans can be translated to pets too. We can integrate their death into our lives while providing them with a hospice experience. Many seriously ill pets that I speak with want to do a “bucket list”. If they feel good at all, they are up for having another walk in the park, a party with their best treats, and/or doing their favorite activity with their human. Often, even though terminal, pets do not feel as sick as they actually are, and they look forward to final adventures.
You see people doing bucket lists all the time now- taking the time to do the things they want to do before they die. The more memories you put into your memory bank with your beloved pet, the more smiles you (and your pet) will have when remembering your life together.
When I talk to pets on the other side, they tell me that they feel whole, happy, and complete again. Their feelings are such a dichotomy with how their grieving owners feel. The pets often want me to tell their owners to be happy, and that they don’t want to see us sad.
I find, for myself these types of sentiments to be a balm to my heart knowing that we finished our lives together on a high note, experiencing another great adventure at the end of a life of adventures.
Some pets die suddenly, and we aren’t allowed to make the choices of when, how, where our pets cross. So, I find it logical that if your pet can stay a few days longer, plan your time in order to do those things that celebrate their life and honor your relationship.
Pre-loss bereavement can be tempered by a bucket list or a celebration of life. In the bargaining and acceptance stages of grief, doing these things together with your pet can allow you to infuse your sadness with joy.
Pet Perennials offers several thoughtful ways to help honor the loss of a pet. Visit our Pet Loss Catalog for meaningful ideas to support the grieving process.