Grieving for a Lost Pet (In Memory of My Dog Sephi) Part I
Losing My Dog Sephi
I lost a good friend of mine this past month. My dog Sephi succumbed to a sudden illness, most likely cancer or a severe auto-immune disease. She had been my constant companion for the past ten years and I will miss her a great deal. I love dogs and have had at least one in my life for all of my life. So grieving for a lost pet is nothing new to me. But it still hurts.
Emotions of Dealing with a Lost Pet
Dealing with a lost pet can be just has difficult as dealing with the loss of a loved one. And as such, we are afflicted with much of the same range of emotions – shock, disbelief, depression, numbness, fear, and guilt, just to name a few. And each of us will feel some of these emotions more severely than others or some emotions we might not feel at all.
The most important thing to know when you are grieving for a lost pet is that whatever you are feeling, these feelings are normal. You might hide in bed for days and go through a lot of tissue or you might resume your normal activities right away. Either way, everyone copes differently and that is okay.
Talk to Other Pet Lovers
For me, talking about it with my friends and family who are also animal lovers has helped a great deal. The most common things that people tell me is that they know how I feel, that Sephi is now in a better place, or that I did the right thing by letting her go. No one truly understands, even if they have lost their own pet because all of us are different. Each of us has a different relationship with our pets and each circumstance for letting them go is different. Also, even though I know Sephi is in a better place, this thought doesn't help to fill my emptiness. And maybe I did to the right thing but I can't help but to wish that I had done something different. Although the words themselves may or may not have been much comfort, it was comforting to know that people cared that that they were there for me in my grief.
Avoid such conversations with those who might say something like, "It was just a dog" or "You can always get another cat". Unless you work in a job with animals, employers and co-workers can be especially unsympathetic. Not everyone is an animal lover and you can't expect them to be very supportive of you and your emotions if they don't understand.
Seek Support if Your Emotions are Out of Control
While being depressed or numb is okay for a time, be careful about letting it overwhelm you. Going into deep depression or bottling your emotions for a long period can both lead to further mental health issues down the road. Allow yourself some time for grief, but if it seems like your grief is lasting too long seek professional help. Likewise, if you find that you are purposely avoiding dealing with your lost pet, force yourself to talk to someone whether it is your therapist or a support group. Some humane societies or animal organizations have such support groups.
Get a New Pet or Not?
Some people cope by getting another pet right away. I have to admit that I am tempted to do this. Even though I still have my dog Maya, it feels strange not having two dogs under my feet. I feel an emptiness without Sephi and I want to fill that void by getting another dog. But another dog will not replace Sephi. There will never be another dog like Sephi. In an emotional attempt to fill a void that can't be filled, I could be inadvertently leading myself to resentment towards the new dog.
Some people may not have another pet like Maya to help. Nobody wants to be lonely and someone who lives alone may need another companion after the loss of their pet. However, just keep in mind that you can't replace the pet you lost. Perhaps get a different breed of dog or different color of cat so that you are not tempted to try to compare the new dog with the one you lost.
Again, everyone is different. Some people may not want a new pet at all. If losing a pet is this difficult, some people may not want to subject themselves to another hurt. This is okay too.
How Long to Grieve
It has only been a month since I lost Sephi and I am still grieving. I cried very hard that fateful day and felt depressed for the next few. I am still sad now and even crying as I write this, but I am not crying as often. But the crying for a lot pet never goes away. You never forget. I sometimes still cry for Cassie, Smokey, Huckleberry, Patra, and other pets from my past. They were a part of my life for a very long time and deserve to be remembered.
Do Pets go to Heaven?
There is one more thing I want to touch on in regards to losing a pet. Some people may have been told that animals do not have souls and therefore do not go to heaven. I, however, do not believe this. Animals are God's creatures. Just because he did not create animals in his image does not mean that he doesn't care about them. Isaiah 11:6-9 and 65:25 talk about how animals like the wolf and the lamb eat together peacefully in the new earthly paradise. If God doesn't want animals in heaven, why would he have them in our new earthly paradise? A good book to read on this topic is called "The Rainbow Bridge: Pet Loss is Heaven's Gain" by Niki Behrikis Shanahan. This book also has some good tips on dealing with the loss of your pet.
That is all I have on grieving for a lost pet. But I still have more to say. I want to share a little bit about my dog Sephi. Although it makes me sad to write this, I feel it is a bit therapeutic to review my fond memories of her. I will be writing another article soon which will be all about Sephi. Keep an eye out.