After the Dog Died

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Bereavement refers to a state that follows a loss, which may be from death, loss of employment, or marriage. Culture usually determines what is considered appropriate reason for bereavement, and pet loss is not usually included. Mourning is the outward expression of loss, including rituals and customs.

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For most people, the first loss of a loved one can be the strongest and most overwhelming experience they have had. Its very intensity can be frightening and seem uncontrollable. Normal Grief It is commonly expected that a death will lead to grief. Many people will have heard about different stages of grief suggested by Kubler-Ross: These days it is thought that grief does not necessarily follow any set pattern, and some of these stages may not be present at all. It has since been suggested that typically, the period of bereavement includes 4 phases of shock and numbness, yearning and searching, disorganization and despair, and reorganization.

Woman died after police dog bites as she tried to help hunt for suspected drug dealer, inquest told

Grief usually has many components including physical and emotional distress, preoccupation with thoughts of the deceased, and disruption to daily living. Complicated grief Grief may be complicated for many reasons, and may make it harder to resolve your feelings. This may occur if you have other unresolved losses where you were unable to express your feelings honestly, you have little social support, there was a particularly complex or ambivalent relationship with the deceased, feeling guilt, where the death was untimely.

Also both deaths that are sudden and unexpected, and deaths that occur after long illnesses can lead to complicated grief. There can be many other factors also. Anticipatory grief Grief does not necessarily begin with the death of a dog.

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You may have started well before your dog actually died, and the death itself may actually bring about an initial feeling of relief. This is particularly the case with a long and difficult illness, when you have had warning that your dog is likely to die. However, it does not mean you will feel less pain when the actual death occurs. Getting through grief and moving on Worden, a prominent researcher in the field of grief, has identified 4 major tasks involved in moving through the process of loss. This definitely takes time.

So many of our thoughts and actions are automatic — we assume that things remain the same. It can be a shock each morning to realize that there is no need to refill the food bowl. This may involve considering getting another dog. Why does it hurt so much? How much have you actually lost? Certainly, not all people react to the death of a dog in the same way.

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  6. Each person, each dog and each relationship is unique and has unique components. Loss does not involve simply the physical presence of the dog. The psychosocial benefits of living with a dog are well documented and include social support, companionship, an increased sense of our own worth and the emotional bond we have with our dog.

    These are part of what you are grieving. You will be reminded of the special things you did with your dog by their absence. The losses may not be tangible — they may be the emotions that your dog elicited from you. You may have lost the good feeling you had when your dog put his head on your lap, or when he wagged his tail at the sound of your voice.

    The laughter that came when he did something silly, and the assistance you received when weeding the garden. The warm feeling when you arrived home to find him waiting at the door to welcome you. So the degree of daily interaction you had with your dog will influence the number of losses, and therefore the degree of grief.

    Coping with the death of your pet

    Guilt This merits a paragraph of its own, due to the significant role it has in making a normal grief complicated. There may have been aspects or decisions that we may have made differently with the benefit of hindsight, that had an impact on our beloved dogs life or death. The only useful thing that can be done is to learn from the experience for the future. We need to be kind to ourselves at this time.

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    Reach out to others who have lost pets. Check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups—see the Resources section below for details. If your own friends and family members are not sympathetic about pet loss, find someone who is. Rituals can help healing. A funeral can help you and your family members openly express your feelings. Preparing a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or otherwise sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion.

    Remembering the fun and love you shared with your pet can help you to eventually move on. The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Spend time face to face with people who care about you, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood. If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow.

    Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but can also help to elevate your mood and outlook, too. Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs: Recognizing Depression and Getting Help. Seek professional help if you need it.

    If your grief is persistent and interferes with your ability to function, your doctor or a mental health professional can evaluate you for depression. One aspect that can make grieving for the loss of a pet so difficult is that pet loss is not appreciated by everyone.

    As we age, we experience an increasing number of major life changes, including the loss of beloved friends, family members, and pets. The death of a pet can hit retired seniors even harder than younger adults who may be able to draw on the comfort of a close family, or distract themselves with the routine of work.

    Grieving the Loss of a Dog, Cat, or Other Beloved Pet

    Stay connected with friends. Pets, dogs especially, can help seniors meet new people or regularly connect with friends and neighbors while out on a walk or in the dog park. Try to spend time with at least one person every day. Regular face-to-face contact can help you ward off depression and stay positive. Call up an old friend or neighbor for a lunch date or join a club.

    Boost your vitality with exercise.

    Coping with Losing a Pet: Grieving the Loss of a Dog, Cat, or other Beloved Pet

    Pets help many older adults stay active and playful , which can boost your immune system and increase your energy. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program and then find an activity that you enjoy. Exercising in a group—by playing a sport such as tennis or golf, or taking an exercise or swimming class—can also help you connect with others. Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits: How Giving Improves Your Life. Try to find new meaning and joy in life. Caring for a pet previously occupied your time and boosted your morale and optimism.

    Try to fill that time by volunteering , picking up a long-neglected hobby, taking a class, helping friends, rescue groups, or homeless shelters care for their animals, or even by getting another pet when the time feels right. Losing a pet can be a traumatic experience for any child.

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    5. A child may feel scared that other people or animals they love may also leave them. Let your child see you express your own grief at the loss of the pet. Children should feel proud that they have so much compassion and care deeply about their animal companions. The death of a pet can raise a lot of questions and fears in a child. You may need to reassure your child that you, their parents, are not also likely to die. Involve your child in the dying process. Explain why the choice is necessary and give the child chance to spend some special time with the pet and say goodbye in their own way.

      Some people temporarily lose interest in the things they enjoy doing or want to spend some quiet time alone. Others will want to keep busy to take their minds off the loss. It's also natural to feel like avoiding situations that involved your pet — such as the park where you used to walk your dog or the trail where you rode your horse. For many people, losing a pet can be their first experience with death.

      Recognizing and sorting out feelings can be a big help. Talking about a loss is one of the best ways to cope, which is why people get together after a funeral and share memories or stories about the person who has died. Acknowledging your grief by talking about it with friends and family members can help you begin to feel better.

      There are other ways to express your feelings and thoughts. Recording them in a journal is helpful to many people, as is keeping a scrapbook. You can also write about your pet in a story or poem, draw a picture, or compose music. Or plan a funeral or memorial service for your pet.

      Some people choose to make a donation in a pet's memory to an animal shelter or even volunteer there. All of these ideas can help you hold on to the good and happy memories. Everyone has to deal with grief sometime, and most people work through it in time. But if you're under stress or trying to deal with other serious problems at the same time, grief can feel overwhelming.

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