People in general are not good helping others with grief and grieving, and that can be doubly hard when they don’t understand how important our pets are to us. Some people think that losing a cat or dog is no big deal, nothing to even get upset about. Views are changing about how pets are treated, but the overall opinion that people have on grieving the death of pets has a long way to go.
I say this because after twenty plus years of working with people who have lost beloved animals from their lives, I have noticed some traits about grieving. The most important thing I have noticed is that we must do it. If you just have a stiff upper lip, straighten your backbone, and don’t shed a tear, you do not move through your grief.
I know this because when I am at equine conferences and pet events, I speak with clients who have lost pets and never grieved them. This seems to especially happen with horses. I am not quite sure why, except for the fact that they are considered by many to be simply livestock, so it seems even more removed to grieve for them. I would speak with women who hadn’t grieved a horse they had lost a year or several years before. So, when that horse would come through to talk to them, they would suddenly be overwhelmed with sadness and grief. I am talking deep racking sobs that sound like they were going to die. Ugly crying. I always keep a box of Kleenex next to me in the booth for these clients.
These women when in my booth cry themselves hoarse over an animal, one they lost years ago. They say things like they never wanted to feel this deep grief. That they never want to get another animal because they never want to feel that bad ever again. They will be happy that the animal came through from the other side to them, happy that they remembered specific wonderful things about being together. But they walk away, emotionally drained when we are done.
The one thing about conferences is they last several days. Because of that, I will see these women again, either later the same day or the next day. Some of them search me out and come back to share with me how they are currently feeling. It is amazing, because all those women who cried so hard and used up my entire supply of tissues are now vibrantly happy. They tell me how amazing they feel. Many share they wish they had grieved the loss of their pet long ago.
Let’s face it, no one LIKES to cry. There is always something else to do, always seems best to put it off until a better time. However, those tears need to be shed. We need to make it through the grief so we can be on the other side of it. On the other side of our grief, we can remember how great the relationship with that animal was. We can smile again because we had such an amazing love with this pet.
You see if you don’t feel your grief, if you don’t express it, you swallow it. It doesn’t go away. Your grief is like a bag full of pebbles that you swallow, and they press on your insides, weighing you down, keeping the vibrancy and joy that should be in that place instead suffocated and numb.
That is why when you have a significant loss, you need to be surrounded by people who know how much the loss means to you. You need to permit yourself the space and time to grieve, so you can process it and won’t still be carrying the grief around a decade later.
Personally, people who think that pets aren’t worth grieving are people to whom I don’t gravitate. But you may have to work with these people, or you have them within your family. If you do, don’t let what they say affect you. Make sure you find a sacred space where you have the time when you are ready to ugly cry. Trust me, it won’t last forever. It may come in spurts for a while. But afterwards, you will have expelled your grief, not swallowed it whole to carry around like extra literal dead weight.
Consider sending a remembrance to someone who is grieving the loss of a pet.