Coping With The Loss Of A Pet

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The death of a pet is a very painful experience. I went through this with my Husky/Shepherd mix, named Mandy. I had Mandy since she was eight weeks old. Through the years we had a lot of good times together. Mandy had hip displaysia from puppyhood and as the years went by she developed arthritis in her hips.

I was told that I could expect Mandy to live to approximately 11 years old. However, Mandy didn’t begin to slow down until she was 13 years old. The arthritis in her hips began getting worse and I started taking her to the vet every two weeks for injections of Adequan, which lubricated her joints. This helped a lot, along with a glucosamine supplement. Unfortunately, at 14 years of age, Mandy was diagnosed with cancer of the spleen. At her age surgery was not an option.

Mandy passed away on July 3, 2008. I didn’t have to make the difficult decision to euthanize her, because she passed away in the car on the way to the vet. Mandy was 14 1/2 years old when she passed away, quite old for a dog of her size.

My world changed the moment Mandy took her last breath. Even though I had known for some time that this day was coming, when the time came, I just couldn’t believe it. It had to be a mistake. How could she be gone? It’s very difficult to comprehend that your beloved pet is gone from this earth.

I found a pet loss site online that was very helpful for two reasons. The first reason is that I was able to say anything and everything I was feeling and the people on the site completely understood. The second reason is that the information obtained on this site showed me that everything I went through after losing Mandy was perfectly normal when one is grieving such a loss.

I was leaving Mandy’s body at the vet to be cremated. It took me about an hour to be able to pull myself away from her and walk out the door, knowing that I would never see her beautiful face again, except in my dreams. Upon arriving home, I was still crying hysterically. I wandered from room to room all night, not able to believe that she was really gone.

The night Mandy passed away, I removed her collar before leaving the vet’s office and placed it in my purse. Now, over a year later, her collar remains in my purse, and goes everywhere I go. It’s one of my most precious possessions, being the last thing that touched Mandy’s physical being.

When I woke up the next morning, the first thing I did was remember that Mandy was gone. The thought made me feel sick. I lived in a fog for the next week, crying most of the time. Even at work, I would have to run outside or to the ladies room because I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I could think of nothing else. I felt guilty. I felt I could have done more for Mandy. Everything I did, I questioned. Everything I didn’t do, I thought I should have done. Guilt is a very normal part of grieving. You second-guess everything you did and said, didn’t do or didn’t say. The guilt will eat you up if you let it. I found that a very important part of beginning to heal was learning to let go of the guilt. In reality, I had nothing to feel guilty about. I gave Mandy my all and I did everything I could possibly have done for her. But in grief, guilt consumed me anyway.

I went through pages and pages of information on pet death, and found many helpful poems. I printed out these poems as I found them and put them all into a book, along with poetry and other things I had written about Mandy and about my loss. I made a photo album of Mandy’s life from eight weeks old until her passing. These things are very precious to me, and always will be. I had a journal in which I wrote to Mandy and told her how I was feeling and how very much I missed her.

I begged the powers that be to let me have Mandy back. I pleaded, I bargained. I was willing to give up one year off of my own life to have one more day with Mandy. Of course, all my begging and pleading did not bring Mandy back to me.

Along with this terrible, unrealistic guilt, another emotion that grabbed a hold of me was anger. I wasn’t angry at Mandy, at myself, or at the vet. I was angry at time. Time kept moving on. The world kept turning. I had spent many hours thinking of what it would be like when Mandy passed away. But I had never given a moment’s thought to what life would be like after Mandy was gone. I was angry that the sun still shone, the birds still sang, the world kept going on without Mandy in it. Time kept passing and getting in between today and the last time I saw my Mandy. I still somewhat resent time for doing that, but I’m not angry anymore.

Oh, it was so hard to come home and not be met at the door by Mandy. She filled so much of my time and now my time seemed empty. I felt hollow, dead inside. I remember one night on the two week anniversary of her passing, I was going outside at the time of her passing to plant flowers next to the stone I had placed in the backyard for her. A thunderstorm hit just minutes before her exact time of death. I went out with the flowers and there was a lot of lightning. I thought to myself “I hope I don’t get hit by lightning” and then the next thought in my head was “Well, at least then I could go with Mandy”.

In those first weeks following Mandy’s death, I didn’t care about much of anything. I went to work because I had to, with the main objective being to get the day over with so I could go home and cry. I didn’t clean, I barely ate, and even when I did eat, it didn’t matter if the food was good or not, because I hardly tasted it. I was eating because I had to, getting no enjoyment out of the meal at all.

As hard as Mandy’s death hit me, at the same time I felt relief. I was relieved and happy for Mandy. She was no longer in pain, no longer being eaten up by cancer. She would never have to suffer again. Yes, I was happy for Mandy, and at the same time, overcome with grief by her loss.

I slowly began to put Mandy’s things away. This process took a few months to complete. During the first week I still put fresh water in her bowl every day, simply because it made me feel better to do so. Eventually I picked her bowls up and put them away. Slowly, her toys were gathered up and put away also, into a memory box for Mandy. The last thing that I put away was her bed, which laid in the corner of my room. This was a few months after her passing, and oh, how I cried when I picked up that bed to put it away and found a bone underneath it that she had hidden there before she passed away.

As the months went by I slowly began learning to cope with the loss of Mandy, and all these terrible emotions that were tearing me apart. I learned that no matter how the end came and what was or wasn’t done, it happened the way it happened and there was nothing I could do to change it. I learned that time was going to keep marching on whether I wanted it to or not. I was waiting to “get over” Mandy’s passing. Slowly I realized that there is no “getting over it”. You don’t get over it, you don’t forget it and move on, you learn to live with it. You learn to live with a sadness in your heart. With an empty place in your life that once was filled by your beloved friend.

Over time I learned to put all these feelings in a small compartment in my head. I don’t have to feel them all the time, every minute of every day. Though I think of Mandy many times a day, and I always miss her, all these terrible emotions of grief are in that little compartment, to be opened and let out when I need to feel them. Sometimes they do still escape by accident at an inopportune time, but for the most part I am in control of when the sadness causes tears. I look at Mandy’s pictures, I tell her I miss her and I love her every day. But I don’t cry every day.

My journey of grief has been long and hard, and very painful. But I have made it through to days where I want the sun to shine, I want the birds to sing. I want to participate in activities that I used to enjoy before I knew the grief of losing Mandy. I laugh and smile again. I have fun again. I will never forget Mandy and not a day will go by that I don’t think of her, and sometimes cry for her, but I am able to enjoy life again.

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