After the loss of my pets I have learned a lot; particularly after the recent loss of my second cat Dusty. I hope the lessons and tips I have learned will help other pet parents in their journey post pet loss or even for preparing for the future. These ideas will hopefully help you take on a fresh perspective and also provide information about options you may have not considered. Here are 8 Things I wish I knew before experiencing pet loss. My hope is that through my experience, you can find validation, support and comfort.
1. You can make arrangements with your vet in advance
When you hear a veterinarian talk about having to put a pet down you automatically think that it was an urgent decision or one that had to be made at the last moment. What I never realized until after the fact was that in many instances, pet owners are dealing with pets with terminal illnesses and they know that there are no other options for cures. So at that point some pet parents make the decision to choose a day in advance and can have their pet put out of their misery.
I never knew that or I guess never had that though process with Dusty. My immediate frame of mind was “Okay. So how can we fight this cancer? What options are there?” I only thought that that may be an option when the time presents itself but never thought , “ Let me book a date in advance”. I don’t think that would have worked for me however if is a viable option for someone else, by all means do so.
2. Final goodbyes don’t have to be in a sterile office
I wish I knew about this before Dusty’s passing. When my first cat passed she passed away at home in my arms. Honestly she passed away in what felt like about 20 minutes or so. And although it was shocking and alarming there was a sense of peace in that she was with me and my sister in our home environment with family around her. I could feel my cat Precious’ last breath leave her body. There came a sense of closure being home.
On the other hand with Dusty, having to take her to an urgent care 24 hour vet in a sterile office other than our usual vet (due to after hours), it felt awkward. Although the staff was very caring and compassionate the environment was foreign and just not the same as the comforts of home.
It was not until Dusty had long passed away that I learned you could have arranged for final transition of your pet in the comfort of your home. If I had known then what I know now I totally would have done so. I don’t regret my decision because I did the best I could with the knowledge I had however now that I’m more informed of options, I know that is a possibility in the future if I need it. If I were in a pet’s place I would definitely want the comforts of home to be the last thing I see. It would make for a better loving comforting surroundings in my last moments.
3. Memorials don’t have to be morbid
Although pet loss is devastating and hard, it’s important to not overwhelm yourself in the sadness. It can easily keep you in a depressed state. I’m all for taking time to grieve but also an advocate for finding ways to positively have an outlet to express grief too. Whether it’s in writing or painting or just getting outside out of the bed, it’s important to remember our pets always wanted to put a smile on our faces and that desire doesn’t end now that they aren’t here in the physical.
With that in mind, making a memorial in honor of your pet doesn’t have to be reduced to only head stones and ashes. There are companies doing remarkable unique things for pet owners grieving the loss of their pets. Companies like Petsies that make plushies that resemble your pets help take the morbidity out of death. (I have it on my list of things to get this year!) Also Pet Perennials is a company I learned about that allows pet parents to re-purpose your pets ashes and use them in part along with seeds and soil to plant living memorials to honor your pet that lives on. (Antoher item on my to do list!) So knowing that there are companies out there today that make the grieving process more manageable and not so depressing is a positive thing.
4. That human-pet connection is not over
I’ve shared my experiences about life after death in another post called “4 Reasons why I think Pets have an afterlife”. After coming home from the urgent vet care and walking into my home, my husband and I could still feel Dusty’s energy. It‘s like she was still there but not physically there. Even several days after we both encountered odd experiences that let us know Dusty never really left us, but just transitioned in a different form of energy.
All you science majors out there that understand the formula E=mc2? Well essentially that formula equates to the idea that energy is neither created nor destroyed but just rather changes form. I like to think of our bond with our pets in the same manner. The love you share with a pet or family member is never is dead, but only changes form.
5. Grief has no time limit
I took the loss of my second cat Dusty so much harder than my first cat Precious. What I’ve learned in this process is that every grief is different and there is no time limit. How you grieve for one loss is not going to be the same as another. Just remember to take time to grieve. Take things one day at a time and release those emotions. Some say the level of grief is equated in part to the amount of time and love shared. Perhaps that true. But regardless you get up every day and keep your head up. You may not feel like it but remembering what your pet would do to put a smile on your face and make you smile, gives you that push to honor them and yourself and keep moving in a forward direction. We are all works in progress.
6. The impact is more than just mental
What I also learned in the process of grieving was that grief of this magnitude this time around was literally traumatic to me. I’m not only talking about mentally being distraught and emotional but my mind literally impacted my physical state.
What do I mean? Aside from crying my eyes out for 2.5 days straight where my eyelids where swollen almost shut as if I was a female boxer, but my body physically was fatigued and tired. And without getting overly graphic, my normal monthly female cycle was even disrupted. I called my doctor out of concern and she even expressed that due to the nature of a loss like this it is absolutely not unheard of for the body to be impacted as such. I just never knew these things and have been learning along the way.
7. There are resources to help
When I first experienced the loss of my cats it was a great help to have family and friends who support you. But for some people, you need a little extra help and support. Depending on how your pet passed you may even need more answers or validation. This is in part why I felt the need to create this blog. I knew after experiencing such a loss, others had to feel the way I did. People need resources and comfort and inspiration after such a devastating event.
Just know that there is help out here. You may have to dig, scratch and claw to find answers but don’t quit. Check out my prior post called 8 Resources for healing after pet loss to get started. You aren’t alone in your feelings. Just like you, I understand, and there are many thousands if not millions of other pet parents that have been where you are.
8. You will realize what real strength is
And this leads me to my last revelation. I read a quote that really resonated with this experience. To paraphrase it states: “You never know just how strong you are until you are put in a position where it is the only choice you have.” Sound familiar? Pet loss is one of the hardest things you may experience, but if there is one thing I know without a shadow of a doubt I would do it all again because my furbabies meant the world to me. A love like that is priceless and irreplaceable. Adopting and raising furry family members is totally worth it even if they are not meant to be on this Earth forever.
And lastly, know that through experiences like this it is when our true strength is discovered. Keep those memories of your family with paws fresh. Focus on the positive fun times to help get you through. And remember, when you feel depressed or think you cannot get out of bed, think of how Fluffy would respond to your sad demeanor. Fluffy would be right in your face to jump on you and lick your face or give you head butts to let you know they will always be there loving you and by your side. With that in mind, gather the inner strength to rise and know that not even a thing like death can stop that love that remains. They never quit on us, so honor them by showing the tenacity to move forward each day. That is strength to me.
“Love never fails…” -1 Corinthians 13:8
Did any of these tips resonate with you? Let me know your thoughts. Comment below.