Grieving the Death of a Pet Part 1: Grief is Weird

Grief. Grief is weird.  It has been almost 5 months since I lost Muffin to cancer; I thought was past the worst of the grief.  I was not “over” the loss of Muffin, I hadn’t forgotten her, but the sting of the loss wasn’t so great. I wasn’t breaking down in tears whenever I thought of her. In fact, Muffin wasn’t in my thoughts much at all.  I was thinking instead of Crash, Sneakers, Mama and Little Black. I was thinking of work, bills, life. Then I changed out the litter boxes. Muffin had this thing about clean litter boxes. Whenever I brought up a freshly washed litter box with new litter in it, she would appear from nowhere to use the box. Within minutes of me putting the clean box down Muffin would appear and “christen” it. I thought of this memory a few weeks back when I was changing out the boxes. It was a good memory and I smiled a bit before the floodgates opened and I got smacked with the emotions all over again. I was so sad. From that moment on I was suddenly being reminded of all the goofy things that Muffin and Sam did.  I would be doing something completely unrelated and suddenly be crying over my lost cats. I could be in the kitchen cooking and remember how Sam had to sit on the cutting board (we won’t think about how sanitary that was…). Or  I would be drifting to sleep and remember my last moments with Muffin, the agony I was feeling at that moment. So I repeat, grief is weird.

Working in the world of veterinary hospitals and animal rescue groups, I am confronted with grief on a regular basis. I have seen so many people lose a beloved pet. I have seen so many different responses to that loss. Some, like me, cry hysterically as they ease their beloved pet’s exit from this life. Others are much more practical about their loss. They understand that having pets means loss. That is the sad reality, our furry friends don’t live as long as we do, so we are going to lose them.  Some people cry, others don’t. Some need to be with their pet to the very last moment, while others don’t want to be in the room for the euthanasia procedure. Some people want ashes back, others do not. And ya’ know what? That’s just fine. Everyone grieves differently.

I love the idea of the Rainbow Bridge, and my cats waiting to be with me again.

I love the idea of the Rainbow Bridge, and my cats waiting to be with me again.

I’ve had coworkers who told me they couldn’t look at pictures of their cat for years after she died. I had one coworker who threw a party in memory of his cat, because he was so loved by so many. Some people want to hold on to the ashes of their beloved pet, keep them on a shelf with a picture and a collar. Others want the ashes to spread in a meaningful spot, perhaps a childhood home or perhaps they even want to bury their cat’s remains somewhere. The first cat I lost as an adult was a cat who was in hospice care with me. He was one of my favorite cats from the shelter I worked at and the two of us had a great bond. When he died I got his ashes back and spread them in a little pond near my house. It was a perfect spot for him because he was obsessed with water, especially running water.  We all respond differently to the loss of a pet.

The important part of grief is not how you grieve, but that you do it. Grief is a painful experience, and it shakes the ground on which you live.  I was grieving for Muffin before she even died. The anticipatory grief was hard, but the grief after the loss was harder. When I was looking for resources to help me through my grief nothing seemed to fit my needs. So, I am going to write about pet grief. I will write what I needed to read at the time. Hopefully it will help someone with the loss of his/her pet; if not, it has helped me grieve, which is a good start.


Articles on Grief & Death:

Euthanasia: A Vet’s Perspective

The Anniversary Reaction: Grieving Your Pet


7 thoughts on “Grieving the Death of a Pet Part 1: Grief is Weird

  1. ympina says:

    Grief is tricky in that you think you’re over it and it creeps up out of nowhere sometimes. Bucky Bloo liked to play with the rings from the gallons of milk. Over 14 years I collected many of them. It was exactly one year to the day that he died and I remembered and thought of him – but wasn’t feeling overly emotional about it. I felt I was past the worst. I was cleaning the house and by now a year later the only reminders I had of him were installed items – like the kitty door to the powder room, or the child-proof latches on the kitchen cabinets etc. As I am cleaning I find a milk ring – I smile, wow, a year later and I find his favorite toy. It didn’t make me sad, just a little “awww”…I continue to clean and in total that day I found 9 milk rings. Yes they were in hidden spaces – not out laying on the floor. (Also, please note I do clean my home regularly, but this was deep cleaning, move the fridge type of cleaning.)
    By the end I was a bucket of tears. I miss that cat so much. I miss how he attacked dogs toys, but loved milk rings, and his mischievousness that made me understand why people give away their cat. That cat was a life-changer, I fell in love with cats because of him. It’s now 2 years 4 months later and I still get weepy when random things trigger memories.

    • Katie says:

      It is going to be super hard on me when Crash dies. He saved me; he literally saved my life. He and I have this bond that will be horribly painful when severed.

      I remember when we first cleaned after Sam passed. There were spider rings all over the place. I thought I had gotten them all up, then last year I was going through the toy box looking for something for Sneakers when I found a spider ring. It was so bittersweet to see that and be reminded of my sweet little Sam. It is amazing what triggers the tears isn’t it?

  2. kittiesblue says:

    I will always feel regret at not being with a few of my kitties at the very end of their lives for a variety of circumstances. I want them to feel that they are loved and cared for until the last moment of their lives. Each has his/her own burial place in the yard with a marker of some sort. I think of each of them frequently, even the ones that died over a decade ago. They all have and will always have a special place in my heart. Hugs, Janet

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