Home Lifestyles Advice Coach Paradise: Grieving Over a Lost Pet

Coach Paradise: Grieving Over a Lost Pet


Dear Coach Paradise,
When you live alone and have a pet for a long time and that pet is your "at-home source of comfort and affection," it really hurts when they are gone, and most people don't understand that. They just say, "It was only a dog or it was only a cat. Go get another one." It's not that easy to replace a loved one, whether it was a mate or a child or a pet. Even if it was time for that loss because of age or suffering, a loss is still a loss, and it hurts.
My Shadow is gone. Into the bush to die with dignity, I'm hoping, and not off somewhere and fell into a hole and was too weak to get out. I've been looking. He hadn't been eating the past few days or from the looks of it, using the litter box. Every night after work I'd hold him and pet him and take him to bed with me. Sometimes he'd stay, but most times he just wanted to be in the bathroom behind the door or nestled under the toilet like it was some kind of big white mother.
When I would hold him, he would still put his paws one on each side of my neck and purr, but his purr was getting quieter and quieter lately. He wanted to go outside two nights ago. He's done that before since he's been sick, so I let him, and he's always there a few hours later for me to bring him in to go to bed. I left him out while I went out for a few hours, and when I got back he was gone, so I figured he'd be back by bedtime, but he wasn't. I tried looking close by for him with the flashlight, but no luck. Then again in the morning before work and again last night, but still no luck.
If I could know that he went off to die deliberately I can respect that, but it's the not knowing that hurts. I had wanted to bury him with my prayer shawl from Tibet wrapped around him, but I guess he had other ideas … cat ideas. I pray that is what happened, and not that he fell down somewhere and is waiting for me to rescue him. I pray that his kitty spirit has gone on and left his emaciated body behind and he has gone on to his next great kitty adventure. People have many pets in their lives but every once in a while there is that very special pet, and Shadow was very much that to me for 12 years, and I will miss him very much.

Shadow's Mom
Dear Shadow's Mom,
Thank you for your letter. I thought it was important to print your heartfelt eulogy to Shadow. I am sure that if the newspapers had pet obituaries they would be full of similar testimonies to relationships full of affection, companionship and caring. There are libraries of books about man's relationships with animals and much evidence that having a pet enhances one's quality of life — at all ages. Pets often bring out the best in us with their unconditional love and loyalty. Shadow was clearly one of these special relationships, and it would be only natural for you to grieve his loss.
I hope that whoever reads your letter will be more sensitive and realize that loss is loss and people (and animals) grieve at the absence of a loved one — of any species. Since there are no institutionalized ceremonies to commemorate the deaths of our animals, their loss is often glossed over as unimportant and unacknowledged. I hope that your letter will serve as a reminder that grieving for an animal is the same process of honoring those who were a part of our lives and mourning their passing.
People are often uncomfortable around death and are awkward at offering condolences that aren't in a card or a bouquet. It may be easier to suggest getting a "replacement" than actually dealing with your sorrow.
By writing to me, you have let people know that it hurts to lose a pet. You have also let them know that treating you the same way they would someone who has lost a person close to them is in order, with a hug or some expression of sympathy. Remember, people sometimes need help in order to be their best most loving, sensitive selves. I think that your letter has been such help. I offer my condolences for your loss. Both you and Shadow were fortunate to have found and enjoyed each other's love and company for all these years.
With sympathy,
Coach Paradise
Editor's note: Coach Paradise (AKA Anne Nayer), Professional Life Coach, is a member of the International Coaching Federation, an MSW clinical social worker-psychotherapist and a medical case manager with 30 years experience working with people of all shapes, sizes and challenges. For further information about her services, call 774-4355, visit her website or email her.


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