funny cat looking curiously
Not my actual cat. Photo by Manja Vitolic on Unsplash

Grieving the Loss of Your Pet — A Horrible How To

I recently lost my cat pal after 12,5 years

Your pet won’t live forever

And neither will we. Sorry to be harsh, but if you haven’t realized this, best before you even got your pet, it’s high time to do so at the latest, once your pet gets old and his/her health starts declining. Sometimes this kind of hard reality check can help, since death is such a taboo subject in our society.

Give it your everything

If you are a pet lover, you do not need really this advice. Give it your everything. Having a pet is having a bond with another soul. A soulpal, if you wish. When the time comes, an accident happens, old age becomes an issue, disease and illness strike, you can’t be trapped in shock and despair. You need to function to the best of your abilities, to make decisions for your pal. Sleep on the floor, be there, comfort your pal, postpone everything else and help your pal through the most difficult of times. Don’t torture your pet with good intentions. Your pet is no human. Don’t drag your ancient pet to the pet clinic if all you can gain is having your pal on tubes and under medication for a few more days or weeks just so you can tell yourself that you did everything. Death is not that bad of a deal for the one dying and suffering, it’s only for those that remain, that hearts break and tears are shed. Don’t prolong suffering just because you’re scared of losing your pet. This horrible day will come for every pet lover, no matter how often you can postpone it.

Look at the deal you got

I had my boy for 12,5 years. Most of the time he slept in my bed, he was the first and last thing I saw every day, he helped me through many difficult times. Losing him, was (and is) tearing me apart. The reality of him not being here anymore, is a cold weight hanging on my heart and my shoulders. But looking at it rationally, from the moment his health started declining rapidly due to illness, to the moment where there was no other option than to let him go, it was one week. That is 7 horrible, awful days without much sleep, full of worry and hard decisions. But on the other side of the equation are 4.652 days of joy and bliss.

Your suffering is on you

I found, in relentlessly analyzing my feelings and thoughts through this difficult time, that it is me that causes me the most suffering. My ego, self pity and broken routines is what causes my emotional suffering.

Death is OK, dying sucks

Dying can mean suffering, especially if it is happening over a longer period of time. You will know, when death is the better option, compared to “living in pain”. Death is OK. It’s just going back to the state before we were born. If it’s time for euthanasia, see it as final medication, as easing the suffering, setting the spirit of your pal free. Be there. Comfort, talk and hold. Let your pal not see your heart breaking, you will have time to fix the damage after your pal left.

Checklist of things that can help you

  • Change your routines, so they don’t interfere with the routines you had when your pet was still around, switching things up helps you avoid many “holes” to fall into
  • Stay warm, your nervous system will be tested during this time and you will feel cold, it makes things only worse, if you are freezing, soups help
  • Get busy with your other pet, friends, family hobby or work, it might feel like “pushing your loved pet away” at first, but it’s fine
  • Cry when you have to, even if you’re a 45 year old tough guy, the more you cry, the sooner you are back to rational thinking, you need to get it out of your system
  • Think of the good deal you got, how many good days VS how many bad ones, when it becomes too hard to handle
  • Even if it hurts, think about your suffering pet and how good of a decision it was to let him go
  • Avoid photos and videos for a while, put it’s favorite blanket, pillow and toys away
  • Look at other people with pets and realize, they too will one day go through the same suffering like you, probably have so many times before already, it’s the ultimate price we pay for having a deep bond with fellow creatures, it’s just how it is
  • Stock up on vitamins (especially D and B), drink enough, when you get little sleep and are upset for a long period of time, your immune and nervous systems are suffering greatly, this will make it easier for you to cope with the stress, without falling ill
  • Try to force away the memories of the last, bad days and consciously remember the good times and funny moments, even if it’s very painful at first, you need to get the “good past” into your “horrible present” asap
  • Get your loved pal a burial or find a crematory, some symbolic rites can help you cope with your loss, my boy will return to me soon in a nice clay pot…
  • If you have other pets, focus on them, enjoy every good day and memorize the good times, they can and will give you so much comfort
  • If you don’t have any other pets (anymore), give it some time, then decide if you are ready to get to know another kind soul and fall in love all over again with a new personality and form new life-habits with

Closing thoughts

Well, there is not much left on my mind. Sometimes I just stare blankly into the distance, and it is fine. With every day things get easier. Not by much. The process is slow, but I am getting there. More often than not a dear memory brings a smile to my face instead of tears. But to be honest, I have to thank my other cat for supporting me. She was his sister and now that he is gone, she is much more prominent and available. Just like she’s trying to care for me.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

-Dr. Seuss

cute sleeping cat
This is, what we accept suffering for. Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

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Scollurio

Hailing from Austria, a self-employed graphics designer and writer since 2009. Loves long walks in the forest, thoughtful solitude and silly raccoons.