Dear Friend

© 1998, Juliet Brown

Dear Friend,

You have just experienced a most terrible loss. The relationship you had with your beloved pet was unique and special. You shared intimate times, both happy and sad, and now there is a gap in your life where once the presence of your precious friend warmed your heart and brightened your days. How many of us have faced such a loss which, at the time, seems insurmountable? Your grief, intense and perfectly valid, may be misunderstood – even ridiculed – by those around you. But there are people who understand the pain, the disorientation and devastation, of losing a treasured animal companion. You are not alone.

Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling – no matter how painful, or irrational it may seem to you. This is the best way to work through your grief. As you allow yourself to remember the good and bad times, the agony will slowly begin to recede and the memory of the joys you shared with your treasured pet will begin to shine through. Right now, that may feel like a long, long time away. The intensity of your pain and sorrow is testimony to the love you had for your pet – he or she will always hold a special place in your heart.

You may pass through an incredible range of emotions – guilt, anger, denial, depression being among them. This is completely normal. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to be good to yourself. You have just suffered a devastating loss and it will take time to try to come to terms with it – to work through the emotions until the pleasure of having shared your pet’s life overcomes the agony of the separation. Be kind and patient with yourself; avoid those who don’t understand. In time, when you are feeling stronger, you may want to explain to them why your grieving was natural, to honour your animal friend. But for now, nurture yourself. You may want to work through your grief sitting alone or with a close friend, in places that were special to you and your pet. You may also want to do some things in memory of him or her.

Most of all, do whatever feels right for you. Those close to you will probably take their lead from you – try not to hide your devastation. If you loved your pet so much in life, it is natural to grieve for him or her in death. Grief, though so painful, is the way through a dark tunnel to healing. Allow it to do its work.

Friend, you are a beautiful person because you have taken the time to love and understand another creature. Now, allow yourself to mourn that precious life and to remember all the joys that you shared in your unique relationship. Please don’t rule out having another pet – he or she won’t replace your beloved friend, but will be a testimony to the treasure who has gone from you. Another animal will say to your friend who has gone ‘Sharing my life with you taught me about the delight I receive when I share my life with another creature. You have taught me something of the nature of love’.

Take care, my friend.

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From Friend to Friend – Suggestions for those who are grieving

(© 1998, Juliet Brown – http://members.optusnet.com.au/~bundlebliss/suggestions.htm)

Losing a pet is difficult and traumatic for many people. Our pets love us unconditionally, listen to us when we want to talk, and bring us so much joy. When it comes time to say goodbye to a special pet, it can break our hearts. Although some people may not understand the depth of our reaction to our pet’s death, it is important that we allow the grief process to do its work in order to slowly heal the pain.

When your pet dies, there are a thousand daily reminders of old routines and special shared times. The emptiness can be devastating, and the final memories seem too hard to bear, particularly if you saw your pet suffer. Painful as it is, it will help you if you can accept your grief now, and allow it to work its healing course in your life. The extent and intensity of your reactions may at times feel overwhelming, but this is not surprising when you think of all that you have lost in your relationship with your pet.
There may be some things you can do that will bring comfort to you in your time of grief. These may include things such as:

  • having a funeral or memorial service for your pet
  • writing your pet a letter ~ about your memories, and how much you love him/her and miss him/her
  • writing a poem about the times you shared
  • selecting your favourite photographs for enlargement and framing
  • making a donation to an appropriate organisation in memory of your pet
  • placing flowers in places that were of significance to you both
  • lighting a Memory Candle in your pet’s name
  • putting your pets toys, dishes etc. in a special place, such as a Memory Box
  • walking the paths you once walked together

Above all, do whatever is comfortable for you. Rituals can help your healing. as they encourage you to face and mourn your loss, and say goodbye in your own way.

Remember that you are not alone in your grief. Many people are devastated by the death of their companion animals. The pain may be so intense that you decide you do not want another pet. But your pain is a testimony of your love, and the special relationship you shared with your friend. One day, when the grief has eased, having another pet may seem desirable: the wonderful times you shared with your friend may prompt you to share your life with another animal. What greater honour is there of your dear pet’s memory?

Be kind and gentle to yourself, my friend. Don’t be surprised at the intensity or duration of your feelings of grief. Where you love deeply, you will grieve deeply. Allow the grief to teach you how much you loved and valued your animal companion. In time, there will be smiles through your tears, and the treasured memories of sharing your pet’s life will ease the agony of separation. You are a tender person who has taken the time to nurture another creature. And with every precious memory s/he has left you with, your special pet has returned that love to you a thousandfold.