Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Grieving Our Pets, Pets Grieving Pets

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard a story from our local Veterinary School and grieving our pets. There is a grief counselor/social worker who runs a grief support group at the Vet college for folks who have lost their pets. They discussed how close we get to our pets and how it's normal and natural to grieve their loss.I was glad to hear about the group. I haven't recently lost a pet, but I know how hard it is on me when I do.

The discussion included stereotypes about losing pets and how it's harder for men to grieve the loss and how they can be less tolerant of those around them. I think that it's true not just for men, but for all adults. As children, we lose a pet and a part of our world is gone forever. As adults, we've learned to live with loss and don't want to feel that poignant pain again.

Men, as a stereotype anyway, don't like to feel emotions visibly. They feel them - some are deeply affected by them. But most of the men I've known don't want to show it. The deepest loss I ever felt was for Napoleon. I don't know why that is. Oscar was much more loved and lived with me longer. Perhaps it was the times we lived and the things we lived through... Anyway, my husband was very short with me during that period of grief. He didn't stay with me very long, but the grief did. It's still in me today.

And to be brought to our knees by the loss of a pet is degrading! Come on - it's one thing to lose a parent or child - but a pet?!?! So, to hear the piece on NPR was comforting. It's nice to know that there is a study of grief over our pets. Maybe your local vet college will have a course of study in their social services curriculum.

It made me wonder, though. How can we help our pets to grieve the loss of a litter-mate? I remember when Fatty died. His litter mate - Oscar - wanted nothing to do with the empty carcass. "He" - Fatty - wasn't there. I discuss some methods that have worked for me in the past, but they may not always work. A grieving animal is not "in it's right mind" and that is true whether two- or four-legged.

A mother cat losing her litter by placement of the kittens is no less mourning their loss than if they died. She has an advantage of seeing them and saying goodbye, but not all the people taking a kitten will be good to it. She has to trust us, her caregivers, that we have chosen a good home for her offspring.

Remember to help your cat to grieve. Allow the pain and loss to show. It puts all of us on a higher plane of existence to remember, honor and love those we have lost. Two- or Four-Legged!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We recently lost one of our 2 cats, who were sisters. The one left is grieving her loss, they are a year old. I'm wondering if I should get her another playmate, and if so, should it be of the same age or a kitten?