The loss of a beloved pet leaves a huge hole in the family, and grieving this loss has its own individuality and timetable. The look and feel of grief is personal.
The frequency of grief expressions, their intensity, and their duration during the bereavement process, vary from person to person. Each person is unique and grieves in his or her own way. Do not allow anyone to tell you otherwise. The guidelines presented here should contain something to help everyone. Right now it is probably difficult to think about yourself, or to muster the will to read or listen to anything, but please try. Your health and welfare are important and need attention, even now.
Frequency is individualistic. The longer term goal is to minimize the frequency of grief episodes. However, when you do have one, deal with it directly. You don’t want to encourage suppression of honest feelings and emotions.
Intensity, like frequency and duration, will vary episode to episode. At times the intensity of the experience will depend on how tired you are when it occurs. Sometimes, a specific trigger will set a very intense grief episode into motion. Sometimes you simply won’t know why a particular experience had such an impact on you; it just happened. All of this is normal.
Duration is personal, and varies widely among individuals. Also, there are two types of duration to consider. The duration of a single mourning event is one type. Some events might last for days, and others last just a few minutes. The duration of the entire bereavement process is the other type of duration. There is no rule or formula to determine how long your bereavement will last. The best answer sounds like no answer at all. It will last however long it lasts. To some extent, it might never really be over, simply adjusted to over time.
Some professionals who deal with those in mourning feel that the overall process averages around a year. Others say it can take from days to months to years. Many feel it is better to think in terms of years instead of days or months.
Over the course of your bereavement, you will probably experience many different emotional responses to the death of your pet. Normally, you can expect to move from the sensation of intense loss, to periods of anger and rage, through feelings of depression and finally toward hope and recovery. These stages or phases are not clear-cut. They mix, overlap, and sometimes repeat themselves. While grieving, try to live each day the best you can, using all the help and support at your disposal. Eventually, you will notice a change, subtle at first, more pronounced as time passes, that allows you to feel and believe you are returning to a semblance of normal – not the same, never the same, but a new normal, a new way of living, expressing and being.
You should not try to deny the emotions you feel, or suppress them. Again, you do not need to conform to someone else’s expectations. If you ever feel overwhelmed or desperate, consider allowing a trusted friend, member of the clergy, or a trained professional to help you through that particular challenge. It is difficult to handle everything alone during normal times; we all need occasional help. Remember, it is an indication of wisdom, not weakness, to recognize the benefits of allowing qualified, supportive people to help you during times of bereavement, when necessary.