Last fall, Chica, my first and well loved cat became very ill. She was experiencing kidney failure and had become dehydrated. She was not able to drink enough water to stay hydrated. She drank and drank. It was incredibly difficult for me to deal with her seemingly sudden decline in health. My daughter and I had to determine what care we wanted her to receive and how much money we could afford to keep her with us. We learned how to insert needles into her skin and hydrated her with fluid one or two times a day. Eventually, she lost her battle and slid deeper into kidney failure and overall system failure. She was in so much pain at the end that we ultimately decided to have her put to sleep. We were both there when she slid away after the lethal injection. My heart cried. She had given us almost 16 years of love and affection.
Initially, I did not want to talk about the feelings of loss and grief that came with my pets death. I found out, however, that it helped to tell “Chica” stories to my friends. It meant a lot to me that a number of them sent me cards or shared their experiences losing a pet. It is okay to feel loss, anger, denial and eventually acceptance. Grief makes us human. Acknowledging it and finding a way to express it helps us grow and mature. Children even learn about loss and grief when a beloved pet passes away.
When Chica passed away it hit me harder than anticipated. I had never allowed myself to grieve the loss of my other pets so emotion spilled out that I had been carrying for years without realizing it. My daughter and I decided to make a collage of our animals that have passed away. We bought a beautiful frame and put pictures in it and for Chica we included her paw prints which the vet had provided. In honoring Chica, I found a new way to process grief and it helped.
If you have lost a pet, I am sorry for your loss. If you are interested in how to help your children, here is another article with tips and hints to help them get through. Be encouraged. The grief will pass and the love your pet has given to you will remain with you even after the pet’s death.