April 13, 2022
Unfortunately, I know this truth all too well. Summer 2017 struck another emotional blow as I made the decision to euthanize my beloved Beagle, Hunter. He’d been my constant companion for 15.5 years, having relocated twice across the country. As I faced health challenges, both prior to and after my mom’s death in 2012, Hunter delicately lay next to me. It was as if he instinctually knew that I needed to be soothed.
The tricky part was actually acknowledging the depth of my pain following Hunter’s death. See in a society where household pets are viewed as ‘just animals,’ I found it challenging to share my feelings openly with others. Even in circles with others who loved their fur babies, it was difficult for me to express the incredible void left after Hunter died. He truly was my best friend.
The toughest battle I faced for several months after Hunter’s death was the deafening silence in my home. Each day, I did everything I could to avoid going home. I worked late. Sat in my car for hours and ate dinner. Walked the mall until closing time. I just couldn’t stomach the reality that I’d no longer hear the rattle of his collar, his bark, or the sound of fresh water streaming from his mouth at dinnertime.
I’d identified myself as a ‘dog mom’ for over 15 years. Friends and family recognized this as a primary identity, given that I had no biological children. Hunter’s death forced me to explore and expand other parts of my identify. Nevertheless, his dying didn’t result in my shifting things overnight. As with any type of loss, it was a gradual process filled with ebbs and flows, acceptance and overwhelm.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers excellent strategies for coping with the loss of a pet. Click here to read the full article.
Of special importance is being patient with and kind to yourself as you grieve. Your pet, like my Hunter, played a significant role in your family. It makes sense that you’ll wrestle to regain your emotional footing after experiencing loss. This process will last for as long as it takes, and that’s perfectly normal.
Friend, I challenge you to ask yourself these (and other) questions as you grieve. You’ll likely be surprised at what comes to mind.
Little by little, day by day, however, do your best to show up for yourself. Ask for help. And lean into the love shared with your pet. Remember … love never dies.
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