Pet Loss Sucks
An animal’s death can be the toughest thing for us. Many of us identify as their caregivers and just as losing a close family member, pet loss or the loss of a special animal can be devastating.
After losing my best friend when I was a teen, I experienced my first encounter with depression. Her name was Mew-Mew, she was a beautiful long-haired calico cat who passed away suddenly and in front of me from what I believe was a heart attack. Her loss left me shattered for weeks and forever changed. I had my first encounter with death and lost my best friend from when I was 5 years old.
Fast forward several years and I’m currently an assistant at a cat sanctuary for older and special needs cats. During my first week, we lost one of our most special cats, one of the cats who greeted us each morning. Over the next month, we lost three more cats. On top of this, my family’s dog had to be put down in the same month. I learned a great deal about death in that one month.
Animals share a special relationships with us
Our relationship with the animals in our lives can be extremely powerful. They are able to love us in ways that humans cannot in many cases. They only know how to love unconditionally and provide us with their love without judging us for our past mistakes.
When we lose an animal we are close to, we lose a friend, a companion and in many cases, a partner in life. In the case of wild animals, livestock animals or animals involved in the industries of fur, organs, shells, ivory, etc. – or any animal that we don’t know individually, we can still feel empathy for them as the Earth loses another innocent soul. I feel this way after seeing animals who have been hit on the side of the road. It’s a terrible sight I wish I didn’t have to see as often as I do.
When faced with the loss of an animal, here are some reminders to help:
- Dr. Linda Bender’s book Animal Wisdom has really helped me to see death in a different way. Her words helped me to not feel as scared or as hurt by the loss of a special animal, but to have an overall sense of peace. She describes that animals pass away peacefully because they’ve always been more present and connected to the cycle of life than us humans. Animals have a strong bond at all times with the universal life force of creation, something that we’ve lost as the world has become better at separating humans from daily interactions with other animal species. When they leave this Earth, they are not stressed but are simply at peace because they know they are a returning to the Source and continuing the cycle of life. I highly recommend this book.
- Grief is not linear, as mentioned in this Psychology Today article, and is the expression of loving someone (or an animal) very much. We must give ourself room to express the natural emotions involved in the grieving process.
- Advances in veterinary medicine have brought many advances to animal health. The possibilities we have to care for animals and ease their suffering is much greater than it was even 50 years ago.
- Pets are on this planet for much shorter periods of time than us. When we lose a pet, with ample time we’re gifted with the time and opportunity to love and care for many more in our lifetime.
- Your pet or the animal under your care already knows that you care for them and is gracious for all you did for them, they express this gratitude towards us every day.
Animals leave us with lessons after they’re gone
Losing an animal, whether it is a beloved pet or an animal we see hit on the side of the road or the millions of animals that perish each year in order to feed us, the loss is tough. Learning to appreciate life through an animal’s eyes and showing respect to the process of death can help us to better honor the animals in our lives while becoming better humans.