Today is Sunday, September 11, 2011. As I write this blog, I am listening to commemorative services broadcasting on National Public Radio. I hug my kids, hug my pets, and sing along with “Amazing Grace” while thanking God that my little family is still safe. I pray for peace for those families who were so disrupted by the events that took place a decade ago. The national grief is palpable today. There is no time limit for grieving.
Grief is a process that we must lean into if we ever wish to heal. Good can come from grief. Yes it hurts. Yes it includes anger as part of the process. No we don’t forget. But the process can include both sadness and joyfulness if we allow it. We can be sad that so many innocents lost their lives. But we can also be joyful that we have opportunities to love one another and support one another everyday. Embracing grief together can bring people together.
I am not a grief counselor, but I do grief counseling for pet owners and pets as part of my duties as a veterinarian. Pet owners anquish when their beloved pets become sick with a fatal illness or injury. They struggle with end-of-life care and decisions for their pets. They cry when I can extend quality of life no more and the time has come to end pain. Sometimes I can do no more than touch their shoulders as they weep. Other times I keep pets alive until their owners are ready to say goodbye. Often, euthanasia is a final gift I can give a pet and the grieving family–a gift to humanely end suffering. In the end, a good grief process brings peace. I don’t lose a client, I gain a friend.
Pets provide so much joy. They offer companionship and unconditional love. They provide services to disabled owners. They conduct therapy sessions in hospitals and schools. They search for victims and sniff out illegal substances. They lower our blood pressure and they help us get more exercise. They ask for nothing but food, water, shelter, and a bit of attention now and then. That is why it hurts so much when we lose them. We can be joyful that they blessed our lives for a short time.
People who have never loved a pet might not understand that losing a furry family member is a real grief. They sometimes try to minimize the loss for the grieving pet owners, saying “it was just a cat” or an other well-intentioned but hurtful remark. These people just don’t understand. Good grief! It is better to support a friend as they work through the pain after pet loss.
For more information about how to cope after pet loss, please visit these websites:
Have you ever experienced grief due to pet loss? What did you do to help yourself heal? I’d be interested in your stories.