Unfortunately, virtually every pet owner will experience the death of a beloved pet. Whether this is from accident, illness or old age. As our pets age, it is common to worry about the dreadful day of when he / she is passes away. This feeling of dread can grow, causing anxiety and stress that can adversely affect the time the time we have left. This feeling of dread has a name… anticipatory grief.
What is anticipatory grief?
Anticipatory grief are the feelings of dread and grief that occur before an impending loss. This is most common with terminal illnesses or with an ageing pet. You may notice your pet is no longer the energetic and fun loving pet you remember from a few years ago.
Your pet may experience many small losses; such as reduced energy levels. Playing fetch may become too difficult or jumping onto the sofa for a cuddle maybe more difficult. In fact, your pet will show signs of ageing in a number of ways – it can be overwhelming to watch as they lose their independence. There are some gentler games that you can play with a senior pet.
Why do I feel like this now?
It is thought that anticipatory grief can help someone expecting a loss to start processing the grief that they are anticipating. These thoughts may occur during your normal routine. You may experience feelings of fear about what will life be without your beloved pet.
You should take notice of these feelings. The silver lining is that now is the opportunity to do the things you have been putting off. Spend more time with your beloved pet. Treat them; give them that extra cuddle.
What can you do about these feelings?
First and foremost, these feelings are totally normal. We speak with many bereaved pet owners that tell us how they started to feel loss well before their pet passed away.
It may prove helpful to write down how you are feeling each day. Your diary can help you to come to terms with the impending death of a loved one. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you are feeling. It is entirely possible that a family member will be experiencing the same emotions. By talking about them, you are giving them permission to open up to you about how they are feeling.
Preparing for the worst
What happens when your pet passes away? Have you thought about how you want to care for your pet once he or she has passed? Do you want a home burial or a pet cremation? If you want a pet cremation, do you want the ashes returned?
Unanswered questions like this can cause stress and anxiety, which may lead to feelings of anticipatory grief. For this very reason, we have created a free Farewell Planning tool that you can use to plan your pet’s final journey. Once you complete a range of questions, you can print off a plan that you can share with your family and veterinary practice.