Anyone who has ever been ‘adopted by’ a pet knows that special bond, that deep relationship, that develops. They let us think that we are the ‘owner’, and that we are somehow in charge, but it is still part of them just adoring us, and playing the game. They know the real game…just be present in the moment, and absolutely adore the human you hang with, ’cause it is what you do.
And, with these pets… be it a hamster; your gecko; the horse you play with; that bird that chirps, squawks or talks at you; in addition to the cats, dogs, fish … just about any being we can relate to on that level we embrace as ‘pet’. Even spiders!
My locker mate in junior high adored tarantula’s. Now, I don’t know if you remember off-hand what a tarantula looks like. It is impressively large (some to 6″ across), impressively hairy, impressively ‘scary movie’ creepy slow moving with those even more impressively long hairy legs , they sit back on their spider-haunches and lift the two front legs at you in a warrior threat when they are surprised. Supposedly very gentle, smart, creatures… and that’s nifty. Until you are late for biology and reach into your locker to grab your textbook and don’t realize until you are two hallways away that one of your lockermates’ pet tarantulas is climbing your head.
That’s not so nifty.
But, she adored those spiders. And, after I learned to ‘look before I grabbed’, locker-wise… the spiders and I adjusted to each other. I could also see that there was a real relationship, and those hairy little beasts almost seemed to have unique personalities and interactions with Ginny. That taught me a great deal, just watching her with them.
When I was but a wee lass, my mom used to joke that if there was a lost, sick, injured or abused animal within a 5 mile radius of our house, they would find their way to my doorstep, and I would take them in and love them back to life. She was right. What made it odd was that we lived in LA almost on an on ramp of an 8 lane freeway, in a cul-de-sac, with so much traffic around that the little animal would almost have to magically transport itself to make it to my doorstep.
Still, those many, many little beings began my legacy of becoming Official Rescue Mom to any pet being. Over the years I have been there when these little love baskets have died. Too many times to count, and I don’t even want to count. But, I am also a teacher, a healer, an explorer of life… how it works, and our pets teach us much of that.
Even though we know, goin’ in, unless you have an exotic bird with a 200 year life span, that this pet which has taken up residence in your heart and soul, is going to die. We know that. We do. We really do. It is the way it works.
But, when it happens, when that pet dies, it can be some of the hardest time we face. I think, in my years of counseling those who have lost a pet to death, that it is because of the way we love them, and the way they love us, that causes that deep sense of loss. The term “unconditional love” has been overused and abused in modern language, but our pets give us the true essence of what unconditional love is. That relationship, that feeling, that love, is something that touches us on a deep, resonant, soul level like no other.
Grieving the loss of your pet is different that of a human. The way you experience that grief is different. Coming through to the healing, ready to love and adopt and be loved by a new pet friend is a unique journey and path for everyone.
Here are some tips for making it better:
- Don’t, for one second, apologize for what you are feeling
- Do give yourself the space and solitude that you need to just cry, or release, the hurt
- Do let yourself feel whatever it is you are feeling… anger, abandonment, loss, loneliness… just let those feelings flow through
- Don’t criticize yourself for anything you might feel just now… just let it happen
- Don’t go near ‘shoulda’ or regret…
- Do keep the feelings closer to yourself, because some people can be extremely insensitive about pet death
- Do share your loss, and your grieving, with close friends or relatives who understand
We offer a lot of pet loss counseling, a great deal available on instant download audio and video, based on our years of dealing with loss of a pet. Being able to find someone who understands, who has ‘been there’, can be a great help for you during this time.
If it is a loved one going through the death of a pet, here are some tips for you:
- Do give them the space they need to mourn
- Don’t try to ‘cheer them up’ – what you mean to do is help, but it comes across as making them feel like they shouldn’t be doing whatever it is they are doing, right now
- Ask… that is such a powerful gesture we don’t use much. Ask, genuinely, what you can do. Not if you can, but what you can.
- Don’t ‘clean up for them’ and remove any item that belonged to used in relation to the pet
- Do try to “just be” for them. Because we hate seeing a loved one in pain, we have the human urge to jump in and try to change that. Please, resist that urge… the best thing you can do is lovingly, quietly, but genuinely be at their disposal for what they determine they need