The Sudden Loss of a Pet
I am trying to write this through my tears.
Today I received a text from one of my training clients: “Katie. Cooper passed away tonight. We have no idea what happened. He wasn’t breathing right at 9:30. Took to hospital and he didn’t make it.” Cooper was a 5-month-old lab puppy. I am devastated and I cannot imagine what my client is going through right now.
Cooper was sweet as sugar, low key for a lab puppy, smart and always engaged. He had so much to learn and so many fun adventures ahead of him.
I wish I could say I am new to sudden loss, but I am not. My husband and I lost our dog Rocky suddenly. Rocky and I were playing in the backyard. We went inside, Rocky collapsed on the floor. We rushed him to the emergency vet, but he had suffered a catastrophic heart attack and could not be revived after the second heart attack. We were wrecked. The difference if there is one, is that Rocky was eleven, Cooper was 5 months old.
As a pet professional I have cried with many clients over the loss of their beloved pet. It never gets easier, but Cooper has hit me especially hard. He was only 5 months old! His family had only welcomed him the month before.
The bond we share with our pets is profound, and the absence of their presence, especially when sudden, can be heart-wrenching. It’s not just the loss of a pet; it’s the loss of a friend, a confidante, a source of unconditional love.
If you have experienced the sudden loss of a pet, here are some things that might be helpful through the grieving process.
1. The Initial Shock
When we lose a pet suddenly, our first emotion is often disbelief. I know that is how I felt about Rocky and how I am currently feeling about Cooper. How can a creature, so full of life and energy one day, be gone the next? The suddenness doesn’t allow for a period of mental preparation. The void they leave is both palpable and surreal.
2. Grieving is Natural (and Necessary)
Allow yourself to grieve. Society sometimes undermines the emotional bond we share with our pets, suggesting that we “move on” quickly. Remember, it’s not ‘just a pet’; it’s a being that shared countless moments of your life. Your feelings are valid. Grief is a testament to the love you shared.
3. Remembering the Happy Moments
For some of us we have lots of joyful memories to look back on. For others the time we spent with our pet was brief. Either way, there are moments to be cherished. In the midst of sorrow, reflecting on the joyful moments you shared with your pet can be therapeutic. Maybe it’s the way they’d greet you after a long day, or their silly antics that never failed to bring a smile to your face. These memories are treasures—take pleasure in them.
4. Seek Support
Sharing your feelings with a supportive friend or family member can be healing. There are also pet loss support groups and helplines available that can offer comfort and guidance. You’re not alone in your grief. Many have walked this path and can offer a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on.
5. Memorializing Your Pet
Creating a memorial can help in processing the loss. This can be a photo album, a scrapbook, a dedicated space in your garden, or even a heartfelt letter to your pet, expressing your love and gratitude for the moments shared. Some choose to light a candle or plant a tree in their pet’s memory. Memory Flame Candles can send you a personalized candle with your cherished pet’s name on it.
6. Understanding Grief’s Journey
Grief doesn’t follow a linear path. Some days will be harder than others. You might find solace one day, only to feel the weight of loss even more profoundly the next. That’s okay. Each individual’s journey is unique.
7. Considering the Future
While the thought of another pet might seem daunting or even impossible now, it’s okay to keep an open heart for the future. Every pet brings its own unique love and joy, and when you’re ready, you might decide to share your life with another pet companion. For my husband and me, we did move on. We adopted Briscoe. A few years later, we adopted Kensi, and last year we welcomed Jake into our family.
In conclusion, the sudden loss of a pet is an emotional turmoil, but it’s also a journey of love, reflection, and eventual healing. Your pet’s paw prints remain forever etched on your heart, and in time, the pain of loss gives way to the cherished memories of shared moments. Remember, it’s okay to grieve, seek support, and honor your pet in your own unique way.