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Stages of Grieving

There are many different stages of grieving. The three that most people seem to experience commonly are outlined below. The length of time it takes to go through the different stages varies and sometimes people jump back and forth between stages.

Stage 1 - Numbness and Denial:

Immediately after your pet's death you will likely experience a period of unreality, almost like sleepwalking. Nothing seems like it will ever feel right again. This stage can last several weeks or even months.

Stage 2 - Anger and/or Guilt:

Physically, symptoms such as tightness in the throat, shortness of breath or fatigue can set in. Emotional symptoms can be even more distressing. Anger at the pet for getting sick or injured or even old, and the accompanying guilt may be overwhelming. You may agonize over things you believe you did wrong or think you should have done differently. This stage can also last weeks, months or years.

Stage 3 - Acceptance:

Eventually, there will be times when you do not dwell on your loss and you'll be able to focus on your daily tasks. You do not forget, but you learn to move on. You may have a new awareness of how precious life is and of the value of these special relationships.

Coping With Grief

  • We are all different and therefore we all tend to handle loss differently. Here are some ways that may be helpful in coping with your own personal loss.
  • Surround yourself with caring people - Spend time with family, friends, neighbours or co-workers that have dealt with their own pet loss. These people understand what you are feeling. Talk with them, express your feelings.
  • Take enough time - Everyone is different and you need a grieving period that is right for you. Grieving is a necessity that will help you to come to terms with the loss of your pet.
  • Reach out for help - There are number of grief counseling and pet support hotlines available. Don't be ashamed or feel silly calling. These people are there because they care.
  • Try to come to terms with your loss - Move towards the acceptance of the death of your beloved pet. Work through feelings of guilt, bitterness or blame, which may get in the way of moving forward with your life.
  • Accept a changed life - Recognize that you will feel off-balance for awhile. Your routine is going to change drastically. Try to fill the empty parts with new challenges, new places and new relationships.
  • Writing down the story of your pet's life can help you celebrate the time you had together. If you have children, let them help by drawing pictures or pasting photos of your pet in the book. Detail his or her adventures from the first day you brought your pet home. This project creates a memento for you to keep and encourages you to remember the happy times.
  • You may chose to honour your pet with a gift in memory. One option is the Companion Animal Trust Fund at the Atlantic Veterinary College in PEI. Not only is the contribution a lasting tribute, but it enables the college to bring hope to others through providing a means of continual research on animal disease. Funds may also be used to improve the facilities and equipment at the college's teaching hospital. Contact the Atlantic Veterinary College at 550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, PEI, C1A 4P3 902-566-00882. Donations could also be made to your local SPCA or Humane Society or a charity of your choice.

Enjoy the wonderful memories of your pet. Be grateful for having known them. You are beginning to heal when you can say their name and tell stories about them while still smiling. No matter how long they were with us, we must be thankful for each day we had with them and each special memory they have given us. Some of us could not imagine another pet just yet, while others feel a need to begin again immediately. Each is an excellent decision if it feels right.

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