Dealing with a Roller Coaster of Emotions after Pet Loss
Guest Post by Kamira Gayle, Author & Creator of Impurrfectlife.com – A blog about finding joy, life inspiration and comfort after pet loss.
Dealing with a roller coaster of emotions after pet loss is normal. Actually it is to be expected. The loss of a pet can feel even more devastating than the loss of a person you know. Why? I believe it is because our furry family members are innocent beings that show us what it means to be truly unconditionally loved. Our pets provide love, comfort and companionship. Pets know nothing of being selfish and deceitful. They are innocent. They do not exist in this world to intentionally harm, destroy or otherwise harm each other for the sake of power and money, like human beings do in times of war. If you ask me I think our pets are little fur angels here on Earth.
If you have been following my blog Impurrfectlife, you know I was the mum to two cats named Precious and Dusty. Suffering the loss of both cats was extremely hard, especially my youngest one. It’s been two years this year since the anniversary of Dusty’s passing and although I’m in a much better place, I still experience a wave of emotions after my pet loss from time to time. I’ve discovered that grief is not so black and white but rather gray all over. The following are some of the emotions I’ve dealt with since losing my fur baby. Perhaps you can relate.
Emotions after pet loss:
Feelings of Sadness
This is the most logical of emotions when dealing with grief after pet loss. You miss your furry best friend. You want them by your side or just another day on Earth to hug them and tell them “Keep fighting. I’m right here with you” only to realise that’s no longer your reality. Your family member is gone. Your daily routine will be forever altered. A piece of you is now gone. This feeling of sadness and depression is a normal part of the grieving process. Time helps however having a support system is important for healing.
Feelings of Loneliness
I wrestled with this feeling too. I can only imagine others feeling the same way especially if you are a pet owner who had only one pet in the house. Some furry companions are our only friends or family. Some pets have been with us on this journey called life for 15- 20+ years. So when that time comes and you come home to an empty house, you feel all alone.
Feeling their Energy
I know this one sounds odd. Perhaps it’s not so strange actually. I remember when my husband and I returned from the urgent care vet the night after Dusty was put to sleep and entering our house. That feeling of knowing she wouldn’t be home (in the physical) yet I still felt her energy around the house was something indescribable. I cannot quite put it into words but it’s instinctual. You FEEL their energy and presence in your home.
Feeling the Love
Touching on the last point, even though your dog or cat is not physically in the house, you still feel the love. How do you know? You feel it in your gut, your soul and quite frankly your heart aches. I don’t have children of my own however I can understand and empathise with a parent who has lost their child. That feeling of heartache to the root of your soul won’t ever be fulfilled whole again. Time takes the edge off, but there is an emptiness that still remains.
Questions and Feelings of Regret
I wrote another post called Dealing with Guilt after Pet Loss that touched on this topic. Despite knowing I gave my pet the best quality of life for as long as possible, I still experienced feelings of regret. Should I have done things differently? Should I have risked high risk surgery? Maybe I could have had her rest in our own home for her final moments? This is a normal stage of grief and I have to remind myself that I did the best I could in the moment with the options presented before me at the time. In the end, everything happens the way it was meant to. I have to accept that and let it go.
Feelings of Anger
I also experienced feelings of anger. I never cursed God or anything like that, but I did feel angry at the situation dealing with a terminal condition before my cat passed. My mind raced with thoughts like:
“Why did Dusty have a tumor? I take her to the vet every year for checkups. How did this happen!”
“Shouldn’t she have died of old age naturally in her sleep?!”
“Why did the tumor have to be in an inoperable place?”
“Why did this have to happen to such a sweet loving kitty?”
Additionally, as pet parents we can feel angry when the loss of our pet is sudden and unexpected. I can understand that too. To have a furry family member ripped away from you can make one angry and distraught.
They say time heals all wounds. I tend to disagree. Time heals some wounds but not all. However, I can say that time does help with healing. With enough time, you start to get back to your routine and find some type of normalcy again. Granted, every now and again I’ll hear a song on the radio or see a cat that reminds me of Dusty and I feel the water works coming on. Or in some instances for no rhyme or reason, the thought of her will pop in my brain and I’m flooded with emotions all over again. Sometimes it’s while I’m running errands and driving and other times my tears are triggered by holiday events like Christmas. Either way it’s just another wave of emotions I’ve experienced since losing Dusty. I just try to have extra travel tissues handy.
Feeling Happy Memories
The same way in which sadness may overcome me, happiness does too. If I’m watching the Animal Planet channel on television or see a pet in the street that has the same colour markings as my cat, it triggers fond memories. Happy memories like travelling at Christmas time or playing with them acting silly makes me smile. Those precious little simple moments like when they are rolled on their back, paws and tummy up in the air, makes me pause and smile to myself. It’s these moments I want to hold onto forever and helps with healing. It’s important to remember happy moments like these as opposed to their last moments.
Feeling Thankful and Grateful
Lastly, the greatest emotion after my pet loss I’ve dealt with on this journey is the feeling of being thankful. Why am I thankful you ask? I’m thankful to have gotten the chance to share my life with two wonderful furry beings named Precious and Dusty. My life became richer because of them in my life. Each of them had their own spunky curious personality and gave so much love with no expectation in return. I love that I got a chance to share part a large part of my adult journey with them and learned many life lessons in the process. Above all, I am thankful because the life lesson of LOVE is my greatest treasure. For that I am grateful and one day in the future hope to take that chance once again.
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson
These nine emotions are the roller coaster ride I’ve experienced since my cat passed. I know other grieving pet parents can relate to some of the same emotions I’ve gone through. Did any of these emotions after your pet loss resonate with you? Feel free to share and comment.
The Blue Cross
The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS) mission is to provide free and confidential emotional support. The lines are open from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm every day.
Tel: 0800 096 6606
Samaritans provide confidential non-judgemental support 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress.
Tel: 116 123
Launched by Cats Protection, paws to listen, is a confidential phone line enabling owners to speak to trained volunteers who can offer emotional and practical help in coping with pet loss. The lines are open from 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays.
Tel: 0800 024 94 94
The British Horse Society
‘Friends at the End’ is a BHS initiative designed to make sure that no horse owner has to face the loss of their equine companion alone.
Tel: 02476 840517
The Ralph Site – pet loss support
The Ralph Site is a not-for-profit online pet bereavement resource. It provides support and useful resources to pet carers around the difficult time of the loss of a beloved companion. It consists of a website, a Facebook page and a busy private Facebook group.
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Experiencing pet loss is more than just the physical. It’s an emotional journey too. I hope others find comfort in knowing they are not in this journey alone. Take it one day at a time and seek counseling support if necessary. Thank you for sharing.