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To Kathy, Angie And Mona


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I’m so very sorry to learn of the death of your cherished fur babies, and I’d like to respond to all of you at once, if I may.

Kathy, you say that because of the recent multiple losses you've endured, you’ve been feeling “sad and angry and sad.” You’ve withdrawn from rescue work because it hurts so much, you just can’t face it right now. Angie, you say you’re missing Montey more than you ever knew was possible; you feel guilty for feeling the way you do and wake up asking “What’s the point of going on without him?” Mona, when Primo died you felt as if a part of you died with him. You’ve loved and lost other pets before, but this is different and you don’t understand . . .

As one who’s felt the agony of pet loss myself, my heart goes out to each of you. As one who’s worked with grieving animal lovers for the past 11 years, I also want to make sure that you get the information, comfort and support you need to help you get through these devastating losses.

Of course there is nothing I can say to ease the pain each of you is feeling now, except to assure you that what you are feeling is absolutely normal. Whether death comes suddenly and unexpectedly, or after a long and difficult illness, it is only natural to feel shock and numbness. You just can't believe this has happened, and you find it hard to accept that your beloved pet is really gone.

Because other people may not understand your attachment to animals, you may find yourself reluctant to share your feelings of grief with anyone else, which can leave you feeling isolated and alone. Unlike other losses we experience, losing a cherished pet may be regarded by others as somehow trivial or insignificant, and you may be faced with some pretty insensitive comments from certain folks. Yet only you can know how much your precious animal meant to you, and so only you can measure exactly how much you have lost.

You may be troubled by the fact that you chose to euthanize your pet, which for many of us is a decision that on some level we believe belongs only to God, and you may be feeling very guilty about that decision. You may also be feeling very angry with God or the vet or even with your pet that you were placed in that position.

In any case, I feel certain that your animals knew how very much you loved them, and my prayer for each of you is that the time will come when your fond memories of the times you laughed and played together will far outweigh the bad ones. And it's never too late to say goodbye, apologize to or seek forgiveness from our loved ones who have died. For example, you could write your pet a letter, or light a candle and speak to your pet’s spirit, telling him or her whatever you need to say. Keep in mind, too, that your pet will always be a part of you, just as long as you keep your animal’s memory alive in your heart. Death may end a life, but it does not end the relationship you have with these cherished beings. Animals are forever, my friends.

While I understand the need we humans have to wish away all the pain and suffering that grief entails, it may help for you to recognize that the depth of our grief is determined by the strength of our attachment to the ones who have died, and the pain we feel at losing them is the price we pay for loving them so much. And even though we may try to avoid the pain of grief, it doesn't go anywhere -- it just lies there waiting for us to deal with it, and sooner or later we must give it the attention it demands.

Some may say to you that "time is the best healer," and I know we're told that all the time -- but I want to suggest to you that the passage of time doesn't heal anything; time is neutral -- it's what we do with the time that matters -- and when we have some idea of what normal grief looks like, we have a better idea of what to expect, so we're in a much better position to manage all of our own reactions, as time goes by.

In her post on January 5, Kathy recommended two excellent sources of information: an article by a veterinarian, and my friend Moira Anderson’s wonderful book, Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet. I’d like to add to Kathy’s suggestions. I don't know if you've found and explored all the pages on my own Grief Healing Web site, but I hope you'll take some time to read some of the articles you'll find there on pet loss. See especially my Pet Loss Links page, at http://griefhealing.com/PetLinks.htm . Scroll down to the ARTICLES category, where you'll find links to some very helpful and informative writings. I've also written an on-line e-mail course on pet loss; you can get a sense of it at http://www.selfhealingexpressions.com/pet_loss.shtml .

You might also call your local library, pet groomer, veterinarian or pet cemetery representative to see what pet loss resources may be available in your own community, such as a pet loss support group.

I hope that this information proves helpful to you, my friends. No one can take your pain away at this sad and difficult time, but I can assure you that you do not have to endure it all alone. Please know that I am thinking of each of you and holding all of you in my heart. I wish you all the best, and as you feel ready to do so, I hope you will continue to visit this forum and let all of us know how you are doing.

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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