Jump to content

Guilt and Grief


Zoe's Bassets

Recommended Posts

My sweet Basset Hound, Frankie, died last week.  She is now one of five dogs I have lost in my adult life.  Each experience is unique.  But with one exception (Campbell died minutes before the vet arrived to put him to sleep) all share those distressing thoughts of guilt for having to make the decision to put them to sleep.  For me, the feelings of love and loss are overshadowed by the guilty thoughts that plague my waking life right now.  I know from my experience that the guilt and second guessing goes along with having to make that decision to end the life of someone you love so dearly and who loved you so unconditionally.  So what makes this time different?  Simply, I think because I had her put to sleep before she got really bad.  And not just for her sake but for my own.  Usually, it's much more obvious that "it's time."  So what factors led me to make this decision?

1.  For the last four months, I have tried very hard to help her get better.  An ultrasound revealed a large mass on her spleen which the vets thought was likely to be malignant. Blood panels and other non-invasive tests led vets to believe she had Inflammatory Bowel Disease which cannot be cured, only managed with medication and diet.  

2.  Frankie was on prednisone, antibiotics, diarrhea medicine, supplements, and Pepcid.  The prednisone made her more aggressive and lethargic.  She was also starting to get a skin rash.  

3.  My other dog, Murphy, was not one to back off when Frankie growled, so she attacked back.  The stress of their fighting, keeping them separate, and being bitten trying to separate them was too much.  Then I sent Murphy to stay with a friend and that was sad.  

4. After trying the last special diet and removing the stress of having Murphy out of the house, Frankie was still struggling with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

5.  Finally, I was facing the prospect of leaving her for 10 days while I was in Europe (a trip planned before I knew she was this sick.)  I really didn't think she would do well being left behind with a friend.

I feel so bad for Frankie.  I know she wasn't at "death's door" but I think dogs are so stoic that even when they are in discomfort, they just keep going--they still make every effort to meet our emotional needs.  I couldn't see why she should have to get to the point of being so sick.  It was so stressful to see her go up and down.  I did it for both our sakes.  People always offer comfort saying-- "you did the right thing"  "you helped her out of her misery"  things like that.  Yeah, we do it for that reason.  I just have a lot of trouble accepting that I did it for my sake in large part.  

I want to get past the guilt because I think it is distracting me from the more crucial feelings of loss and grief.  Both Murphy and I miss Frankie a lot.  Only one of us is struggling with the guilt, however.  

 

Frankie 2 at campground viewpt.JPG

  • Upvote 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Zoe's Bassets said:

- Frankie was on prednisone, antibiotics, diarrhea medicine, supplements, and Pepcid.  The prednisone made her more aggressive and lethargic.  She was also starting to get a skin rash...still struggling with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

- People always offer comfort saying-- "you did the right thing"  "you helped her out of her misery"  things like that.  Yeah, we do it for that reason.  I just have a lot of trouble accepting that I did it for my sake in large part.  

- I want to get past the guilt because I think it is distracting me from the more crucial feelings of loss and grief.

I'm so sorry about your dear Frankie's death. Try to remember, losing someone can only be easy if there were no bonds of love.

But just to touch upon some of the points you spoke of (above):

- With all those meds, and some in particular, it's not surprising to me that she was "struggling," as you said, or starting to react on her skin as well. I'd say that's pretty common, just as it is for humans on such prescriptions all at the same time. I've suffered several of these symptoms myself, without (chronically, so as part of some condition), or directly because of the proscribed use of some such meds. 

- I'll avoid those platitudes you mentioned, mainly because I don't think they're ultimately very helpful, and because I never use them myself, because how could I really know those things for certain anyway? (not without communing with an individual animal firsthand, and experiencing a claircognizance [clear knowing] directly) 

- As to the guilty feelings you're concerned with, I might offer that your "trouble accepting" is, and will of necessity be, part of your grief process, and likely cannot be avoided so easily, nor neatly compartmentalized away from the big picture that comprises grief. We all prefer to rid ourselves of so-called "negative" feelings such as guilt, as fast as possible. Yet I've learned (the hard way) that guilty feelings are often produced for various reasons, and so, are what we often need explore. Who's to say other feelings of bereavement are really "more crucial," when (imo) they all play a necessary part in working through everything?

For myself and my life to date, guilt has been one of the strongest teachers and growth-honing (albeit terrible-feeling) impetuses. I've also seen the extremely damaging opposite -- where someone either refuses, or is incapable of feeling any guilt...not a pretty or healthy picture. I think, much like anger having been made into a "dirty word" in our culture, in truth, we would not experience these kinds of feelings without there being some positive USE for them to even exist. For instance, without any feelings of guilt, how healthy could our consciences ever be? Or how could we experience remorse, from which we (hopefully) improve ourselves? 

So I believe a balance can and need be struck between the terms "inappropriate" (not useful) and "appropriate" (useful) guilt, terms which I believe I first learned of on the GH site. But only the individual can explore and discover which is which within themselves.

I hope that helps, and once more, my condolences on your loss.

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You may think you did it for your own reasons Zoe but at the end of the day the writing was on the wall. We live beyond our pets yet they are our children. I know that if you love an animal you will face their loss. That is what makes you the special person that you are. You have been through this several times already and it will come to pass again. That is what love does to us. You cannot love without risk of loss. I am glad to have known Frankie. Your have more courage than I can ever imagine.

Thanks for sharing the picture

 

 

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Maylissa,

Thank you for your response to my post.  It was very helpful to hear your thoughts about guilt.  I can see that I've been looking at the guilt aspect as something wrong or inappropriate, not as part of my authentic experience of losing Frankie and making the decision I did.  Your input has given me a different and I think healthier perspective which I need right now.  I'm reminded of something I heard once that the word comfort actually means "with strength"- so comfort that gives strength to another is such a gift.  Thanks.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, Zoe's Bassets said:

 I think dogs are so stoic that even when they are in discomfort, they just keep going

You are so very right.  My granddoggy, Skye was one of those dogs.  He had bouts of Colitis all his life, which we learned to control with diet and Metamucil and keeping him gluten free.  Then he got crippled, his front paws started turning under, he'd stumble and fall and his paws would bleed.  My son bought him a special made pair of shoes, but sometimes they'd come off.  And his crippling worsened.  Pretty soon he couldn't walk.  He could no longer go on his beloved hikes and walks.  Paul bought him a wagon, just his size, and we'd take him for walks in it and still he smiled, happy happy.  I loved that dog, so very much!  He'd lived with me off and on much of his life, and he loved his grandma.  I had a talk with my son about "when to know when it's time to let them go".  Still, he couldn't do it.  One day he came out of the store to the truck where Skye was waiting and there was blood everywhere.  He rushed him to a vet and discovered he'd ruptured his rectum.  He had him put to sleep.  But oh the stoic suffering that dog lived with!  He never let on.  We'd had no idea something else was going on inside of him, he took it stoically.  They don't always show when they're in pain, they put on a brave face and bear it.  Part of that traces back to when they were in the wild and didn't want to appear vulnerable prey to predators.  But yes, I wonder that they don't want to distress us too.

I am so sorry for your loss of Frankie.  I've lost eight dogs already and the one I have right now is nine, which is his life expectancy.  I'm lucky, he seems to be in good health although he has chronic colitis and I have to cook for him and he has multiple cysts and tumors.  I don't want him cut open, I'm afraid one could be cancerous and it'd spread, I've seen it happen time and again.  The vet said to leave it alone as long as it doesn't bother him.  I know a day is coming we won't get away with it any longer.  But in the meantime, I try to make every day of his life count.  I love him more than life itself, he is my world, and I can't imagine how I'm going to handle losing him when the time comes.  No one could ever replace him, but then I wouldn't expect any dog to replace another, they all make their own position with us in our hearts in their own way.

11 hours ago, Zoe's Bassets said:

the word comfort actually means "with strength"- so comfort that gives strength to another is such a gift.

That is beautiful, and I hope you find comfort here.  I believe you did what you felt in your heart was best for her.  My Lucky could have lived a little longer, but at what price?  She was whimpering in her sleep, she had pain, she was falling, she was going deaf, she'd been incontinent the last two years...it was time.  I think we second guess ourselves afterwards, looking for a way for a different outcome, but in reality, we know when it's time.  Guilt and what ifs seem to be part of the grief process, but those too we need to let go of and comfort ourselves the same way we would a friend going through it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...