One of the essential things to know and understand when coping with a pet loss is the five stages of grief. The five stages of grief by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross are not only applicable when you lose a person, but also when you lose your cherished pet whom you consider a family, loved one, and a being with heart and soul. Pet owners have different coping mechanisms, you may not go through all these stages, but you would experience at least one of them. Understanding each phase can help you know where you are in your grieving process, what to expect for the coming days, and how you can deal with your situation right now. If you know someone who has recently lost his or her beloved pet, knowing these things can help you care for and comfort your friend.
THE STAGES OF GRIEF
There are five stages of grief illustrated by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. A few years after she published her observation, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross cleared that the five stages are non-linear. Not all individuals will go through the exact order. Some might overlap the stages, while others might go back and forth between the phases. Different factors play a role in coping with a pet loss, and people have unique characteristics, personalities, and environments. Therefore, everybody is unique, and the progression of dealing with grief might not be what you expected it to be.
Stage 1: Denial
Denial is the first feeling that you will encounter, accompanied by sadness and shock. No one would ever be ready for death. You will be met with deep sorrow and pain even if your pet has an illness, and knowing that soon your friendship will end. Denial may seem an odd feeling for those who have expected the death of their pet. Denial is not a matter of the mind but an unconscious defense mechanism that conceals the pain and helps you deal with the painful feelings one at a time.
Denial is not denying the forever absence of your pet’s presence. Thoughts that no one would greet you when you come home, no one would sleep with you by your bed or play with you during afternoons. Swearing that you heard your cat purring or your dog sitting by the door, but they are not truly there, is a form of denial. Years of routine and habits are instantly gone. Disbelief that it is gone makes the event seemingly real. It is both confusing and comforting at the same time. Denial prevents you from overwhelming pain as the tragedy slowly sinks in.
As you relive your memories with your pet, gradually, you will get more used to the idea that they are no longer by your side. And as the loss starts to feel real, you will move on to the next stage.
Stage 2: Anger
By the time you accept the reality, anger creeps in. You might feel angry towards yourself, the veterinarian, God, or other people. You may be upset about the whole condition and situation when your dog dies, especially when someone or something could have stopped it from happening.
It is easy to point fingers at other people and blame them for your loss. It is also common to have questions. Why of all the dogs, mine died? Why do some pets of the same type, or the same illness, live longer than mine? Why did my dog suddenly run off to the road? Why did my vet get the diagnosis incorrect? Did God allow this to happen? However, there could be a time where you shift your anger towards yourself. This state is where guilt arises when you begin to question yourself of what-ifs. What if I could have been home earlier? What if I saw the symptoms beforehand? What if I insisted on getting a second opinion? However, these questions are unproductive. Nothing will change if you keep on thinking such thoughts. It would do you no good rather, it stalls your healing process. So, when guilt is taking over you, try your best to refocus on the positive thoughts and the best memories you had with your pet.
Anger is a manifestation of pain. Rage towards the injustice and unfairness of life. When you feel angry, don’t keep it in. When you start to externalize your grief, you know you are progressing. You can talk about it with a friend or be more physical, like punching a thing, yelling, exercising, or engaging in a sport.
Stage 3: Bargaining
The initial part of this stage starts during the what-ifs questions. The questions that concern wishful acts. Bargaining is negotiating, negotiating if only you could do the usual things for the last time. It is a sign of helplessness and vulnerability where you deal with it in that manner. You may encounter thoughts like if only I could walk my pet for one last time, or I would do anything if I could spend one day with him. Bargaining is also hoping or wishing something for your pet, wishing for your pet no suffering in the painful process of his or her sickness, and hoping that he could have died painlessly and peacefully.
On the other form, you could be hopeful that in the future, you will be reunited. Right now, your pets are watching over you, and that they are in a better place. As you delve deeper into the loss, the bargaining subsides. Your mind will come to a clear understanding that your pet is truly gone.
Stage 4: Depression
As the loss becomes surreal, the pain becomes more tangible. All emotions have faded, and emptiness is what is left. Pet owners may suffer a loss of appetite, disturbance in sleep, and become less motivated. This moment is where they may start neglecting themselves, affecting their daily activities, which may be similar to depression. But in this case of grief, it is a normal response. On contrary, when you don’t feel any sadness at all, that is the abnormal response.
Losing a best friend, a companion, is an unexplainable loss. It is okay to grieve. It is better to experience all the emotions. Welcome every thought and move along the waves to completely heal instead of concealing the wound. Accept the sadness, and be true to yourself of what you are going through. And eventually, it will all go away when it already served its purpose, which is to help you cope with the loss and make you stronger. The depression will soon leave you but sometimes will pay you a visit when an opportunity appears.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Here comes the denouement of your grieving process. By the time you can’t take it anymore, acceptance presents itself. It just suddenly pops out of nowhere, and one day, you are okay. Good days are becoming more frequent than bad days. You are starting to pick up yourself and enjoying of what life brings. Every so often, the feeling of guilt might suddenly flash because you think you are enjoying too much and you are betraying your bereaved pet. But then again, acceptance.
Recognize your loss and learn to move on with peace. Focus your energy on what is going on with your life, and invest in good things again. For sure, your pet would wish for you to be happy and all the best. Do not waste your mind’s storage thinking about your pet’s last days. Instead, cherish the precious moments with them, the trips you took, walks, and playdates.
The fifth and final stage doesn’t mean your grief is over. You only get through with it. It gives you a sense of closure. Grief is now a bittersweet sensation as to the painful feelings of the early stages. The best way to handle grief is to go through it and manage it. If it is too much to bear, don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or professionals. You will never really get over the death of your pet. You just learned how to manage and better cope with it.
A customized pet memorial stone is a wonderful way to commemorate your pet and show your love for them. It could also help you in your healing process because it makes you feel like your pet will always be with you. You can create your unique engraved pet memorial or grave marker for your one and only friend. Order now at Rainbow Bridge Pet Memorials. Contact us at 208-253-4557 for any inquiries or message us at our email, [email protected]. You can also order today through our website. Reach us any time because your pet deserves the best.