Updated: Apr 11, 2022
I have no answers to make grieving a pet any easier. When I lost my corgi of 13 years in August 2021, knowing she was still with me in spirit didn't make me ache less, or weep less. It didn’t fill in the emptiness that she left behind. I still felt losing her was unfair and too soon. I still would do anything to bring her back.
There is no easy way to let go of a pet. We have to learn a new way of navigating our day, not because we want to, but because someone we loved very deeply, someone who was an integral part of our life, has moved on. We have to learn to revise our thoughts and words, from present tense to past. We have to learn to sit with our loss, because whether we stare it straight in the face, or try to bury it, or break it, or shove it away, it’s still there. We have to learn to come to terms with the fact that life is still happening around us, even though all we want to do is turn back time to a moment our loved one was still alive, and nestle there with them forever.
Sometimes the difficulty is compounded by the fact that not everyone understands how strong the bond with a pet can be. We might try to hide or diminish our grief because others might not feel an animal is worth the same amount of love as a person, and that losing one should not cause the same amount of sorrow as losing a person.
And of course there will be reminders. Little things that stab us in the very place we are desperately trying to protect. Reminders that make our soul bleed. Maybe rage rises up in response, and we lash out with it, or wrestle it back into a dark, quiet place. Maybe we cry more tears. Maybe an anguish we didn’t know we could withstand washes through us and ragged cries that feel as solid as flesh and sound nothing like us break free from our being to rise into the ether, or slink about the corners of the room, shadowy manifestations of our grief.
There is nothing neat and tidy about grief.
There is no timeline for grief.
When I lost my sweet girl a storm blew up within me, and for some time it was all I knew. I wandered in that storm and let myself feel battered and broken. I didn’t reach for comfort; I only reached for her. Finally one day I was ready to pick up my tools to begin to heal. EFT, meditation, and daily moments of gratitude have helped me to find balance again. I’ve worked through letting go of what I wanted my life to look like and how I wanted my girl to be a part of it, so that I could move forward. I honor my grief, because it stems from losing someone I was honored to know and love. The storm has lessened, but it’s still there, and small reminders still make my soul bleed.
I’ve gone through this with previous pets, and I know I'll go through this with every single one of the animal kin I allow into my home and heart. I have no good answer for why I would willingly experience this again, and again, and again… except to say that these animals are my family, a part of my path, and shutting them out would mean turning my back on the richness, love, and truth they bring into my life.
If you are grieving an animal loved one, I wish you love, healing, and comfort. Below are some additional articles you might find helpful as well: