Most likely, we will experience death at some stage – whether this is the death of a person or an animal. This may be the death – ‘loss’ – of someone we loved, or someone we didn’t love or particularly like, but who was a key person in our life in any case.
Death is a necessary part of living. However, continuing to live our own life, having experienced the death of a person or animal, can be the hardest thing any of us have to live through. How we experience and cope with a bereavement can vary due to many factors, for example:
- previous deaths we have experienced
- the stage of life we are at, eg young person, family, retired
- family circumstances/events, eg. divorce, job change, house move, change of school
It can be very hard to move forward in our lives – or to want to move forward in our lives, living day to day, with that person or animal no longer in our lives. However, it is possible. We may be able to get through it on our own, or we need some support – and there is a lot of support available, not just from me, but from many other independent counsellors, and many agencies – please see my Help page for contact details for some of them.
The death we are living with may not have been sudden. We all know that we are all going to die at some point, and that our pets are also going to die at some point – most likely before we die ourselves. However, in our modern society, with modern medicine, whether we like it or not, we now have the option to choose when our pets die.
You may have been nursing a sick pet for days, weeks, months even years. You may have known for a while that that animal is going to die – sooner, rather than later.
‘Pre-bereavement’ refers to the expectation that a death will happen soon. This can also stir up many emotions, such as:
- confusion – for example, as to what will happen, or when the death will take place – because we can plan when we are going to take our pet to the vet to have it ‘put to sleep’
- guilt – perhaps wondering if you could have stopped the train of events that is now in place – eg. vet visits, medication given, actions you have taken
- loneliness – feeling as if the animal has died already
- detachment from the animal who is dying – to try to prepare yourself for their death you might try to dissociate yourself from them before they actually die
- denial – acting as if the animal is not ill and pretending that everything is ‘OK’
Whilst we know that we are all going to die at some point, an animal who is terminally ill gives us the certainty of death – that it is going to happen, and most likely before our own death.
That means that it is likely that we are going to have to experience their death – that we are going to be bereaved. It may be a death that we were not expecting so soon – or at all.
Living with the knowledge and expectation that an animal is going to die – and die sooner rather than later, can be a huge thing to live with. You could find yourself living with this knowledge for days, weeks, months even years.
As with surviving an animal who has actually died, you may feel a variety of emotions, which may change over time. Everyone experiences things differently. You may take the knowledge of an imminent death calmly and with acceptance, or it might ‘take over your life’, thinking about it constantly.
There are many agencies who offer support with bereavement, as well as many other life issues. Please see my Help page for their contact details. There are also many independent counsellors, including myself, who offer bereavement support. Please have a look around my website, and if you feel that I might be able to support you in your grief, please do contact me using the details on my Contact page.
Angela Fletcher Bereavement Counselling
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