Everybody and everything dies. We all know this and it doesn’t make losing a pet any less painful. As a practicing veterinarian, I experience loss and grief weekly. It’s the part of my job that doesn’t get easier.
Our society doesn’t honor and acknowledge grief in a way that is helpful for those grieving. My mother died my first year in veterinary school. I was devastated and there was no place for my grief. I knew that life moved on, but I didn’t know how.
We all experience death and loss in our lives. It is universal.
I find when I can honor the love I have felt and still feel for the people and animals I have lost, I can move forward. Grief is just the love we still feel.
This is how I express the love I feel for the pets and patients I have lost.
Painting or drawing can be very therapeutic. Sometimes I paint an object that reminds me of the animal. I have even painted the colors of my grief. I have made quilts where every stitch was a meditation of love.
My veterinary class lost two classmates in a short time. At each of their memorials, I made a promise to them that I would help as many animals as I could in their honor. I do the same for the patients I lose as well. I funnel my grief into being of service to as many animals as possible. I would like to think that is what our deceased pets would want us to do.
I often light candles for a set amount of time after a particularly difficult loss. I say a prayer, let myself cry and honor the transition.
Talking about those we miss can be soothing. My veterinary nurse and I will talk about our grief openly whenever it arises. Whether it’s the grief of losing our mothers or our patients we know it’s a safe place to share.
Sending a big hug,