Intense grief is not an expression of extreme or abnormal behavior. Nor is it an indication of a neurosis or disorder. It is a natural response to sudden, overwhelming loss, and it runs a normal course within wide margins. It is considered normal as long as the grieving person is not in any danger of harming himself or anyone else and if it does not persist for an unnaturally long time. Support and compassion are what mourners need most while working their way through this
heartache. This is the terrible emotional price that we have to be ready to pay. But despite the anguish, how can any of us say that the love and good we gave and got is not worth it all?
It needs to be noted here that unresolved other losses can be flashed back to conscious awareness after traumatic incidents. This can also be a “side effect” of narcotics used in surgery or illicitly. When in bereavement for a beloved pet, this recall can suddenly become additionally stressful.
People have so many differences in personality. So it is not possible to predict how everyone will behave through these stages. Thus, we have to deal with them as they arise. There are many different factors that can affect us when dealing with our bereavement. These variables include past experience with grief and/or death; individual personality differences and histories; the degree and quality of social support, spiritual, religious, and ethnic background; cultural influences; age and gender; and, of course, the unique nature of the lost relationship. Gaining insights into these variables has proven to be of great help. The best ways to achieve this is through counseling, self-analysis, reading, and networking with others who have
suffered this type of loss. Pet loss support groups, whether attended in person or online, are also an excellent means to help with the healing.
A beloved pet becomes a basic part of the human companion’s psyche. And when the pet dies, it can mark a traumatic end of a very important part of that person’s life. This death shockingly starts the forced close of one stage in the owner’s life and the beginning of the next. But each new one is based on the strengths and weaknesses of the last. We soon come to realize that the loving memory of the pet remains with us as we live and grow on. In the long run, we honor our deceased pets by accepting this forced change and moving on into a better future—partly shaped by them.
Each time a beloved pet dies, it is like a painful metamorphosis in the life of the owner. The mourner should become wiser and more seasoned with treasured memories and loving experiences. Pain and experience are fundamental to personal growth and wisdom. But during mourning, it is natural to want to cling to the pain. If we tried too soon to get rid of it, that would feel disloyal. Yes, that’s irrational, but it is how we all process our loss. It must also be mentioned here that there will always be some future emotional aftershocks, long past the period of bereavement. There will be times when we will suddenly and unexpectedly break down in tears for our beloved losses. This is normal and to be expected. However well-adjusted and healed we maybe, our loving memories are always there within us. Such a bond is never forgotten or lost.
Some survivors of great personal tragedy tend to be stoic in their behavior, especially when it comes to death. As mentioned, these people also may be inclined to suppress rather than accept their feelings and will not willingly resolve their grief through mourning. And there are many who feel a need to experience their sense of guilt as self-punishment. Their real problems are not self-understood or perceived by others, and they are in great need of professional psychological counseling.
But most of us occasionally suffer to some degree from the “unworthy me”
syndrome (some people more than others). It is important that we do not let ourselves play the victim in life. That is self-destructive, and it also prevents healing during intense bereavement. This demands a lot of introspection, which is also a good sign of healing. And, certainly, that is what our beloved pets would want most for us at this time.
Ultimately, all life is change and growth. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth living. It’s a very hard lesson to learn but a necessary one that our beloved pets can teach us. Yet it is nearly impossible to be philosophical or completely rational when in deep grief.
It is well known that many well-intentioned people enjoy playing the psychologist. But they can cause unintentional harm, sometimes even making the person who is grieving feel apologetic, defensive, or defective. With inappropriate tactics, those unwise people often try to create the false impression that everything is really fine and that time is the only thing necessary for healing. This kind of misguided advice can cause the suppression of normal grief responses. And it will harm the slow process that must always be painfully worked through before resolution can be achieved. Despite their good hearts, they are untrained and unaware of potential problems they may cause.
Unless someone is very wise or trained in pet bereavement counseling, it can be harmful to intervene in anyone’s mourning process. Offering impressive psycho- logical terminology and explanations may also tend to scare the already upset mourner, when he or she is not in a position to understand or benefit from them. Bereavers may be led into feeling that they are “losing it,” although what they are going through may actually be a normal expression of grief for them. Death is so upsetting and confusing. How can we look for answers when we can’t even comprehend the basic questions? All life is a kind of metaphor, and there is so much potential learning and growth to be gleaned from it. Each of us plays a role in this, with our beloved pets, but not ever really understanding the larger picture.
It will always be very painful and grievous when a beloved pet dies. Each one is unique in our hearts. But the love we have for them—and from the —makes it all so wonderful and worthwhile. One of the many gifts our beloved pets leave behind for us is a heightened awareness of our own mortality and how to make the rest of our lives even more meaningful. Our best memorial is how we go on as better peo- ple, enriched by their love and everlasting memory.