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PET GRIEF SUPPORT

Grief is the normal response to any important loss in life. It occurs regardless of whether death followed a prolonged illness, or a sudden accident. Grieving people experience both physical and emotional traumas as they try to adapt to the  upheaval in their lives brought about by the loss. Grief suffered by pet owners is  the same as that experienced after the death of a person. The death of a pet means the loss of a non-judgemental love source. There is no longer the pet to nurture and care for. These feelings can be particularly intense. 

Dividing the grief process into stages can help the bereaved person to understand  that their experiences and emotions are normal.

SHOCK AND DENIAL: The reality of death has not yet been accepted. The bereaved person feels stunned and bewildered, as if everything is "unreal."

ANGER: The grief stricken person often lashes out at family, friends themselves, God, the Vet. Bereaved people will  also experience feelings of guilt or fear during this stage.

DEPRESSION: This occurs as a reaction to the changed way of life created by the loss. The bereaved person feels intensely sad, hopeless, drained and helpless. The pet is missed and thought about constantly.

ACCEPTANCE: This comes when the changes brought upon the bereaved by the loss, are stabilized into a new lifestyle. The depth and intensity of the mourning process depends on many factors. the age of the owner, circumstances surrounding the death, etc.

HEALING: Given time healing  will occur for the bereaved owner. However, there are several things that can be done to help speed up the healing process: Give yourself the permission to grieve. Only YOU know what your pet meant to you. Memorialise your pet, this makes the  loss real and helps with closure. It allows you to express your feelings, and to pay tribute and to reflect. Surround yourself with people who understand your loss. Take advantage of support groups for bereaved pet owners. Let others help you. Learn all you can about the grief process, it will help you realise the normality of  your feelings. Accept the feelings that come with grief, talk, write, sing about your loss. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself permission to back slide. Grief is like waves in the ocean: At first waves come in fast and hard, but as time goes on, thewaves become less intense and further apart. Don't be surprised if holidays, smells, sounds, words trigger a relapse. It WILL end, and your life WILL be normal again.

   CONCLUSION:  Grief is the most confusing, frustrating and emotional thing that a person can experience. It is even more so for pet owners, as society does not give the bereaved permission to grieve openly. Consequently, pet owners often feel isolated and alone, They are NOT alone and what they are feeling is quite normal.

TIPS FOR HELPING GRIEVING CHILDREN. Many people do not realise how traumatic and confusing death can be for a child. Although children tend to grieve for shorter periods of time, their  grief  is no less intense than that experienced by adults. Children also tend to come back to the subject repeatedly. So extreme patience is required when dealing with the grieving child. (1) Give the child permission to work through their grief. (2) Tell their teacher about the pets death. (3) Always encourage the child to talk freely about their pet. (4) Always give the child plenty of hugs and reassurance. (5) Openly discuss death, dying and grief honestly. (6) Always explain the permanency of death. NEVER say things like "God took your pet," or the pet was "put to sleep." If you do the child will learn to fear that God will take them, their parents or their siblings.The child will become afraid of going to sleep. Remember to include the child in everything that is going on. Love, hugs, honesty, and reassurance are are needed.

TIPS FOR HELPING YOUR GRIEVING PETS. Many people find it hard to believe that animals do form very firm attachments with each other. Even pets that outwardly seem to barely get along exhibit intense stress reactions when seperated. In fact, grieving pets can show many symptoms identical to those of the owner. The surviving pet may become anxious and depressed. There may be sleep and eating disturbances. They often search for their dead companions. They crave more attention from you.

Keep the surviving pets routine as normal as possible.Try not to allow the behaviour changes i.e. If the pets appetite is picky, don't change food. All that does is create a more finicky pet. Don't overdo the attention, it can lead to seperation anxiety problems. Allow the surviving animals to work out the new dominance hierarchy themselves. Even though there will be scuffles and fights. Don't get a new pet to help the grieving pet, unless you the owner feel emotionally ready, and have the energy to care for it properly.

Although no evidence, some people claim that it helps the surviving pet to see and smell their dead companion. Usually all it helps to do is make the owner feel better. Therefore, if the owner wants to have the other pets "say goodbye," then it should be allowed.

"You think there will not be dogs in Heaven? I tell you, they will be there before any of us"

(Robert Louis Stevenson)"

 

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