September 25, 2020

Grieving the Loss of my Cherished Pet.

I am a yoga teacher and a certified mindfulness strategist.

I am a huge animal lover and have been the mom to a beautiful goldendoodle boy dog named “Beau” for 14 years.

If you are the mom of a furry friend, then you know of all the unconditional love, joy, and adorableness that you receive every single day you are blessed to be their mom (I’m also the mom of three beautiful, grown children).

I remember when we brought home our new puppy Beau. My youngest was nine years old. She is now 23—she had begged for a dog for years, and I wasn’t sure I wanted one. Her older sister was 13 and her brother was 15.

I had been raising kids for a while, and I was a little tired. I always loved being a mom and still do. But the work was ongoing, 24 hours a day, and I was sure that a new puppy would all fall on my shoulders as well.

After a family vacation out east where we visited ground zero, I had a bit of an awakening. I realized that life was too short, and we would come home from vacation and get a dog. I am so thankful for that awakening, as it completely changed my life.

Our dog Beau became the most loved and spoiled member of our family. He won over everyone’s heart—and mine, especially. He became my constant companion to endless soccer practices, games, and drop-offs. He came to every tennis meets for all three of my kids. He and I spent thousands of hours walking, playing, and snuggling together.

He was there for me when my kids turned into the teenagers who didn’t want to be around me and didn’t always have kind words to say. He was there for me when my husband would travel for work. He was there when the kids would be out on dates, basketball, and football games. He was the best listener, and as time went on, we continued to grow older together.

How can we measure in words how much our pet has always meant to us? He was there for me when the kids left for college one by one. I always dreaded the empty nest, and it hit me hard. I spent hours talking to Beau about it, and we would walk thousands of miles outside in nature.

We also became great at just sitting in silence with each other and appreciating our time together. I never, ever knew I could love a pet so much. My love for him grew and grew—he was another child to me.

He was my constant companion and best friend—I planned on him being around forever.

At his yearly checkups, the doctor would mention that he was getting older. I didn’t pay much attention to that. He was super healthy, had a great appetite, loved long walks, and though he had slowed down a little (as I had), he was the same wonderful dog he always had been.

I knew in the back of my mind that he would not live forever. That is not how life works—for there to be life there has to be death. That really is a terrible thought, and it is even more terrible when it happens.

The week before our dog passed, I took him to the groomer where he got the works. It had been a while since he had his fur cut, and he was looking a little shaggy. He did great at the groomer—he always liked them there once he settled in.

As usual, when I picked him up, he was thrilled to see me and jumped up and down like a puppy and couldn’t wait to leave with me. Hopping up in the car got a little harder for him, so I had to help him hop in.

That week I bought him the humongous bag of dog food that he always liked; I bought him the canned food, too. I got lots of cans to keep in the cabinet next to his dog treats, powder, and supplements for healthy joints and better cognitive health.

I bought a bunch of his supplements from Amazon a few weeks back. We had everything we needed for him to stay healthy and by my side forever. But I never planned on him leaving.

One day we went for a nice walk with his sister and her two puppies, like we always did. Beau was a little slower that day. It was warm outside, and we headed home to rest.

That night he didn’t seem quite himself, and I slept down in the family room with him. He always came upstairs with me, but not that night. He was by my side throughout the night, and I would sit up and pet him, and he would give me his sweet smile and attention. Then in the morning, he was gone.

Shock/denial is one of the five stages of grief. Elisabeth Kübler Ross wrote about this in her book Five Stages of Grief—it is still my stage. Profound sadness is there as well, and I honestly think it always will be.

This is my story, but I know all of you have your own. You all have the wonderful memories, love, and joy, and then you have the terrible day that your dog is no longer there.

While I struggled with this overwhelming sadness, I researched articles and meditations to help me with the loss of my pet.

I was really disappointed with what I found. So I decided to share with all of you some of the things that I have done and continue to do as a dedication of love for Beau. I hope some of my information can help you deal with the loss of your cherished and loved best friend.

There is now a sixth stage of grief, “Finding Meaning,” by Elisabeth Kübler Ross and David Kessler. This is exactly as it sounds—it is about finding the meaning of your relationship with your pet. It’s about having a dog who teaches you about loyalty, unconditional love, acceptance, and companionship.

My thoughts on loss are this: it is real, painful, devastating, sad, depressing, and empty. If you’ve lost your pet, you know that your dog (pet) was not just a dog to you. He was not just a pet—he was a family member and a part of your everyday existence.

You were probably closer to your pet than most humans, that’s why it is best to feel and experience your feelings. Feelings are never wrong—they are how you feel. In order to heal, you need to process all of them.

Here are some different ways to honor your pet while grieving:

1. Journal. The day Beau died, I was inconsolable and in shock. I spent 14 years talking to him every day about everything. So I started journaling to him that day. I have always liked to journal, but now I tell him what is going on at home and how much I miss him.

I do this a lot, and I find it to be therapeutic. It also helps me feel connected to him at any time.

2. Talking. I talk out loud to Beau at home, and of course, sometimes just to myself—this comforts me. I like to keep all of his toys, collars, dog bed, and leash out where they have always been.

This may or may not work for you, but I like them where they always have been so I can still look at them.

Some of my friends found it easier to put them away. My only suggestion would be that you put them away in a box/container, but don’t throw them away. You may at some time want to look at them again.

3. Have a service or a funeral. I know people who like to have an actual funeral for their pet. I think if this helps you, then it is a great idea. I went about this a little differently.

I decided to have Beau cremated, and the place I used offered a footprint memory with his name on it. I have those, and I also have his ashes, and I am waiting to see what we will all decide to do with them as a family.

I was also able to make necklaces or key chains with some of his ashes. I have one and asked each of my kids if they wanted one as well, and they all did. This actually helped me, as it made me think of having a part of him always with me.

4. Use art and music. I downloaded special songs that I love and have great meaning and comfort for me. These are religious hymns that are played at funerals. I would go on walking meditations and play these songs and think of Beau and cry.

This has helped me mourn him and value him as a beloved soul who is now gone. I still walk our same path—it is definitely difficult and sad, but I feel close to him on my walks, and I always think of him. This is my own kind of service and funeral to him.

I want to value his life and mourn him just like I would mourn a person. He meant everything to me, and my love for him is everlasting.

If you are a person of faith, you may want to talk to someone about your loss. I believe that I will see my Beau again someday—this thought comforts me.

Maybe making a scrapbook with pictures and handwritten memories is a good idea for you. I haven’t been able to do this yet, but I think I will in the future.

I have read the “Rainbow Bridge” poem many, many times, and I do find some comfort reading it. I had heard of this poem but didn’t remember ever really knowing it, until now.

5. Be kind to yourself. I also think it is so important to be kind to ourselves—extra kind and gentle—whatever that means to you. Walks, massages, bubble baths, playing favorite songs, taking a nap, staying home from work, canceling an appointment, or changing your plans all work.

Grief is so individual—it is not a competition. I feel the way I feel, and you feel the way you feel. Please don’t let anyone else tell you how to feel or how to grieve. You get to decide what is best for you, and it is okay to change day-to-day or hour-to-hour.

It is not a shame or weakness to cry or reach out for help.

People might be uncomfortable with grief and loss. You can set the tone with them by saying, “I don’t want to talk about it” or “I’d like to talk about my pet.”

Grief causes many physical symptoms, so if you have any, please consult with your doctor. Also, if you are having suicidal thoughts, you should get help immediately by consulting a mental health expert or calling the suicide hotline.

Grieving your pet is real.

Your feelings of sadness are real.

You are not alone in your grief.

If you would like to write to me and tell me about your cherished pet, I would love to hear from you. I hope some of my suggestions can help you through this difficult time.

If no one has told you this, I will: I am sincerely sorry for the loss of your pet.

Your pet was a family member, and your love and grief for them was real.

Please take gentle care with yourself, and think of all the wonderful days you had together.

If you are like me, you probably only had one terrible, horrible day since you brought your dog home—the day they died.



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