Dealing with Guilt after Pet loss
One of the feelings that surfaces after experiencing pet loss is guilt. Guilt is that ugly little word that has such a big impact on your soul like a punch to the gut. However before I delve into that topic, here is …
My backstory (Dusty’s sick)
When I found out my cat had a lump that was suspected to be cancer I jumped at the chance to get it removed until I was told it was inoperable. So the next step, get another opinion. “Yep, definitely cancer,” Doctor # 2 said. “But I can remove it.” “So glad, great! Thank God!” I said. However the only catch was the cost to the tune of $2000+ but also there was no guarantee the cancerous lump would not return. At the time this was happening Dusty was 13 years old and was going to turn 14 years old in 5 months. My first reaction was “Fine whatever, you can take it out. Do you have a payment plan?” But then to hear the doctor say, “Yes, we can do a payment plan. But we need to follow up with repeated sessions of chemotherapy and…”
It was then that my heart sank and my intuition said “Wait, this isn’t going to be so cut and dry easy”. It was then and there that I had to seriously think about what I wanted versus what was best for Dusty’s quality of life. After some soul-searching and trying to put myself in her shoes (paws). I would want to try holistic treatments over chemo and have maximum quality of life in my last years vs. surgery with painful recovery, chemicals pumped through my aging body and no guarantees.
So after a week of careful thought and research, I decided to forgo the surgery and try natural treatments. Fortunately, I was able to find a website that had natural cancer remedies for pets. I ordered with express delivery and started incorporating the treatments with Dusty’s food routine. As luck would have it, Dusty responded positively to the remedies in 3 days. Her lethargy started to fade away. She had more energy and her appetite was returning. The only downside? The hard lump on her throat continued to grow quickly. Some days it seemed to shrink and other days seemed to double in size. I know now that is characteristic of cancer- it changes shape and size.
After almost two months of giving treatments, weekly doctor visits to check blood counts, steroid medication, B12 shots for energy and prayer, Dusty’s lump began to impede her breathing. She began having trouble. After one day of labored breathing and the next day her condition remained bad and hadn’t changed. To add to her troubles she wasn’t eating or drinking and sounded worse. I knew that dreaded moment had come when my husband went to pick her up to check on her and although he felt optimistic her lump started to shrink, it was then and there she had an episode and was coughing and gagging and barely breathing.
With an urgent call to our vet we were referred to a 24 hour urgent care. In 25 minutes we made it to the office and after a quick overview, the doctor on call informed us her vitals were too low and the most humane decision would be to…
This is not goodbye
The doctor gave her a sedative to relax her. I remember exactly my promise to Dusty when I first found out she had cancer before things turned for the worst. “Mommy loves you and I promise to give you the best quality of life as long as possible and will not have you suffer or be in agony.”
I kept that promise, whispered in her ear and kissed her on her head for the last time that night. I told her “Dusty, it’s okay to fly free now. This is not goodbye but see you later on the other side ok? I love you. We love you.”
I was dying inside and made a failed attempt to keep it together but the tears were over flowing. I was able to get myself together enough to see, despite her being sedated, her eyes flicker in a millisecond as if she understood exactly what I said to her in her little ears.
It was then that the doctor tried to finalize her transition but because her organs were shutting down her veins had also collapsed. I didn’t see the doctor end her suffering to the last second, but did say my goodbye. I had some guilt over that. My first cat, Precious literally died in my arms, so this time around was so different due to the illness and circumstances.
If you are reading this and have been through pet loss like me you go through the feelings of denial, bargaining and confusion and anger but the guilt sucks. I felt bad not being able to be there until the last second. Then I wondered “What if I had just gotten the surgery and chemo?” Maybe I’d have more time? Maybe she’d be cured? I should have insisted on staying. Why didn’t I…?
All these questions and guilt wrestled with my spirit. It took some time but with prayer and self-reflection, this is how I began to deal with letting go of the guilt.
How I Learned to Let Go of the Guilt
Remember my Intentions
Yes Dusty had to be euthanized but my promise and intent from the very beginning was to give her the best quality of life from the beginning when I picked her up off the street stoop to the very end of her life. I remembered I didn’t want her to suffer with surgery in her senior age and deal with potential complications in healing, infection, recovery, and chemo treatments. Also, what if the cancer came back too? It would have been all for nothing and only for my selfish desire to have her here with me as long as possible. Just because she’s here with me doesn’t mean she’s living…there is a difference between living a quality life and existing.
Realize we all have a Predetermined set amount of time here
I’m a person that believes in God and I know and understand we as human beings all have a set number of days here on Earth. As I learned to accept Dusty’s transition I had to understand and apply this way of thinking to her too. She had a preset determined time here. If it was meant for her holistic treatments to cure her, she’d be cured.
The way things happen is for a reason
Honestly I’m still coming to terms with this. I do wholeheartedly believe everything happens the way it happens for a reason. What I’m wondering is why and for what purpose? I suppose that part of my life is still playing itself out. Hmm perhaps writing about this now is helping someone else? Maybe that’s why?
Holding onto Guilt is holding back your progress
If it’s one thing I know any pet owner understands is that our furry friends love to put a smile on our face and see us happy and thriving. They do most anything to be by our side and see us thrive. Holding onto guilt does nothing to help us heal. Holding onto guilt literally keeps you in a depressed state and stagnate. And lastly holding onto the guilt will not bring them back and does not allow room for progression and positivity in moving forward in your life. I’m sure our furry friends would not want that for us.
It’s time to make a choice
Lastly what I know to be true is the power of the mind and the choices we make are very powerful. We can choose to let go of the guilt and forgive ourselves or stay in that negative space and harp on the guilt. Choosing happiness, new-found joy and deciding to look at life differently was my goal. I chose to rely on my faith, other pet loss resources and remember the love that was shared. I choose to reflect on the happy times, the silly moments that make me smile and honor her memory by finding renewed strength to get through each day one day at a time and move in a forward direction. It’s not that you ever forget; it’s that you make a choice to live your life the best you can.
Click here to read a poem called A Pet’s Peace related to the topic of pet loss and guilt. It may bring you some comfort.
Lastly, check out a few of my other posts that may give you comfort below:
Can you relate to feelings of guilt after losing a pet? Like my post? Share and comment below.
“A Poem for Those Dealing with Pet Loss: A Pet’s Peace.” Entrusted Pets Inc. Entrusted Pets Inc. by Messinger Mortuaries. Entrusted Pets Inc. by Messinger Mortuaries, 14 Apr. 2016. Web. 9 Sept. 2016.
Post originally published Sept. 11, 2016. Updated Feb. 28, 2018