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Grief and Loss


By Jenny Anderson

Special to Today’s News-Herald

We eventually have to deal with the loss of our beloved pet, and just the thought is enough to cause us grief.  Anticipatory grief is not necessarily a bad thing because it allows us to process how this death will impact us.  We can also begin to make constructive plans.  This is so much better than fixating on the pet’s illness to the extreme. Obsession with this upcoming loss can really impact the family life of a caretaker. This can have effects on the caretaker’s health, relationships, and overall well-being. It’s critical to understand our previous experiences with death and loss tend to influence our emotional reactions during this stressful time.  Sometimes we have to work to forget the past.

Some of us, on the other hand, choose to deny it.  When we are prepared for the loss of a pet, we’re usually better able to cope with it. We can research euthanasia options (home vs. clinic vs. humane society), educate ourselves about aftercare (burial, cremation, memorials) which may be comforting. We can gather a group of supportive friends & family to sustain us when the time comes.  It is also beneficial when a loved one is present during euthanasia.  Chaplain Sandy Johnson is still available for emotional and spiritual support when dealing with pet loss.  You may contact her through Hospice of Havasu.  Although there are not support groups which deal specifically with pet death, there are several more generalized grief support groups in the community.

A good conversation with our veterinarian can help us watch for signs of decline and suffering.  No one wants to see a beloved pet suffer unnecessarily, and if the pet is suffering it should be minimal.  Those pet caretakers who are in denial tend to have pets who suffer most and for a longer period.  Once we move past the denial, a well thought-out plan can be put into place.  Our veterinarian may possibly be a valuable resource during this difficult process and can offer suggestions.

I have always believed that commemorating the life of loved ones, including our special animal companions, is an important part of healing.  One author, Martin Scot Kosins, wrote an article called “The Fourth Day”.  In it, he describes four days an animal-loving person will always remember.  The first  is the happy day our special friend is brought into our family.  The second occurs many years later when we look at our longtime friend and see how she’s aged.  On this day, according to the author, “you may feel a growing fear deep within yourself, which bodes of a coming emptiness.”

The third day is the most difficult. This is the day the beloved pet dies.  The loss of our companion makes us feel “as alone as a single star in the dark night sky.”   This is a day which leaves an ache in our heart.

The fourth day comes when realization comes…our pets leave us with a living and loving legacy.  And although remembering can be painful, it is also healing.  It is a gift our special animal companions leave with us for as long as we live.  Think of it as a flower which still carries a scent long after the petals have wilted.

The key here is making end-of-life decisions which will be in the best interest of our animal companion.  Anything else compromises the quality of life for both caretaker and his pet.

The Western Arizona Humane Society is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with kennel hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 855-5083 for details. For found or lost pets, call 855-4111. View animals found at

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