It's been nearly a year since I wrote a post about bereavements and the New Year.
This post talks through my experience with pet bereavement, how it impacted me and how I am coping with it now. Please do note that this could be distressing to read if you've had a loss, so do make sure you have support around you/to turn to if it brings anything up for you. I will include helpline services at the end.
Today marks 5 years since I had to have my first dog put down. We got him when I was only 10 years old, he was a massive part of my life, and it was truly heart-breaking to have to say goodbye to him. He was my best friend who was there for me through some of the hardest times in my life; I grew up with him by my side!
When we had to say goodbye, I was overwhelmed with sadness, shock, hurt, grief, self doubt, heartbreak but the emotion which broke me the most was guilt. I had guilt for making the decision to have him put down, even though all the opinions I got suggested this was the best thing to do. I felt guilt because he didn't have a voice and he seemed so helpless in that moment. I had guilt for not knowing what to say to him in the room when it happened. I had guilt for feeling like I wasn't there for him. No one, and nothing, really prepares you for bereavement. You know this is something you're going to have to go through at some point, but somehow you don't expect it to happen when it does.
Not many people talk about how hard a pet bereavement can hit you either. I didn't sleep well for months after, the memory of being in the vets room with him was burned in my mind, he was on my mind constantly, I would cry most days too. At first I'd have dreams that he had come back to life and this brought back so much pain each time. Someone said something to me that started to ease my guilt, pain, sadness, and grief; "the grief we feel for those we've lost represents the power of the love we feel for them". My grief started to make more sense to me, I was missing him so much because of how much I loved him! My dreams continued, but it felt like he was visiting me and so they started to feel comforting. I would still think of him daily, but I started to let myself remember the memories that warmed my heart and made me smile - he was such a character who was loved by so many!
I still well up sometimes when I think of him, the grief will never leave me because I will always love him, but I have learned to change my relationship with that grief, to let it be a reminder of how important he was to me. I now have 2 dogs who keep me very busy!! They each have their own personalities, they frustrate me but they also make me laugh at the same time. I have learnt to cherish my time with them whilst they're here to bless us with their presence.
Grief will impact us all differently; we will also learn how to cope with it in different ways too. There is no timescale, no 'right way' to grieve, no rulebook to follow to help you feel better, but talking about it can help.
Talking to someone about your loss can help
Your feelings are valid, no matter what it is you're feeling
You will have good moments and bad moments - sometimes they won't make sense to you or may catch you off guard.
There's no linear way to grieve, try to listen to your body, be kind to yourself, and take each day at a time - Or if a day is feeling too overwhelming try each hour.
Surround yourself with different types of support - journaling, writing letters, going for walks, talking to friends, counselling/therapy, spending time with loved ones, have a lie in, etc.
Resources & support lines that might be helpful:
Rainbow Bridge Poem - Author Unknown
There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth.
It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of all its beautiful colours.
Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass.
When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place.
There is always food and water and warm spring weather.
The old and frail animals are young again.
Those who were sick, hurt or in pain are made whole again.
There is only one thing missing, they are not with their special person who loved them so much on earth.
So each day they run and play until the day comes when one suddenly stops playing and looks up!
The nose twitches! The ears are up!
The eyes are staring and this one runs from the group!
You have been seen and when you and your special friend meet, you take him in your arms and hug him.
He licks and kisses your face again and again – and you look once more into the eyes of your best friend and trusting pet.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together never again to be apart.