Coping with Guilt over the Loss of a Pet
It is normal and natural to sometimes feel guilt over the death of your pet. Even some veterinarians (the bad ones) foster these feelings by making comments that suggest you could have done something to prevent your pet’s death. I had one veterinarian tell me that I should have expected Miko to get the condition that she got because I didn’t do the right things. These words were not what I needed to hear at the end of her life. There are a number of things that can make you feel guilty:
- Making the choice between letting your pet live until they pass away or putting your pet down;
- Failing to notice that your pet was sick until it was maybe too late;
- Wishing that you took your pet to the vet quicker than you did or maybe that you would have put your pet down before the suffering began;
- Deciding not to do certain treatments that may have saved your pet’s life.
It is never easy to decide what to do once your pet becomes ill. Unfortunately, our pets can’t talk with words. They can’t explain what they would like you to do or tell you how much pain they are experiencing. As the provider for your pet, you are the one who is burdened with deciding what to do and when to do it. Your pet depends on you to keep her safe and comfortable. Sometimes our pets are so in touch with us that they can tell you when then are ready to go - that is what happened to me. Miko told me without words that she was ready to go, but she also let me know that she would wait until I was ready.
It was the hardest decision in my life to decide to have her put down. I regretted my decision all the time and for many days. As soon as she was gone, I wanted her back. I feel like a murderer. I called myself a murderer. I beat myself up over my decision. No talk about the Rainbow Bridge could make me feel better. I just didn’t want to hear it. Sometimes, I still wonder if I made the correct decision. I know I did. However, the doubt is something I carry with me. Six months after she passed, I felt as if Miko came into my bedroom and hopped on my bed like she always did with her delicate steps. I felt it was Miko and had to turn on my bedside lamp to convince myself that she really wasn’t there. I can’t say why I felt her. Maybe I was missing her so much I just imagined her. Maybe her spirit came to visit me. There was a comfort and a sadness that came with her visit. It felt familiar to feel her footsteps on the bed, because she had a particular way of walking onto the bed that I knew so well. It was sad because I had to miss her all over again. I remember thinking that it can’t be my Miko. It had been at least three or four years since she was able to hop onto the bed without steps. How did she get on the bed without her steps? Her steps were no longer by the side of the bed. I had gotten rid of them because I couldn’t bear to look at them. When I turned on the light, I remembered that she was gone.
It has only been eight months since I lost my baby. The grief is still fresh, and I have brief moments of guilt that I know aren’t rational thoughts. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I chose the right moment. Miko would have died. She was twenty years old. Cats don’t live forever. Whether your pets live for one year or twenty years, you just have to love them and take care of them the best way you know how. I know I was better for having known Miko and having had her in my life. I can hope that she somehow felt the same about me. As much as I tried to prepare myself for the day that we would part, I could never imagine what it would really be like for her to be gone. It was hard. It is still hard. Any guilt or regrets I may have are just a waste because these feelings do not provide any comfort or bring her back. Eventually, you have to forgive yourself for any decision you made for your pet’s life and care. These are some things that have helped me:
- Remind yourself of all the fun times you had with your pet and the many ways your pet provided you comfort and all the shared experiences that made your pet such an important part of your life. These memories will help you realize that you probably did treat your pet as if she was very special.
- Remind yourself that you made all the best decisions that you could with your pet’s care at the time. You did what you knew to do. You did what you were told to do. And, you did what you felt in your heart was the right thing to do.
- Remember that your pet always forgave you for anything that upset her for as long as you would together. Your pet would not want you to be unhappy. Your pet would not blame you and would want you to forgive yourself.
Guilt over the death of a pet is never easy. With time, you learn to accept the death of a beloved companion. You may open your heart to another pet when and if you are ready. I have a new cat now. Kazumi could never replace Miko and completely eliminate the sadness that I still feel. She does help me happy and remind me that all the pain I went through with the loss of Miko was totally worth it. Maybe Miko will visit me again and watch over my Kazumi.
© 2015 truthfornow