You have experienced a significant loss in your life. Mourning & grief is the natural next step. This article is meant to help you process feelings or emotions that you may experience. I hope this article can be a tool to help you frame & identify what you may be feeling.
Everyone grieves differently...but you are never alone.
Stage I: Shock & Denial
You will probably react to your loss with disbelief & shock. You may at first deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This is the stage where you still call your pet's name out of habit or can't stand to see any of their belongings without bursting into tears. IT'S OK!!! This stage of grief may take weeks so be patient with yourself & allow yourself to appreciate & experience the emotions, acknowledging them for what they are.
Stage II: Pain & Guilt
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with pain. Although excruciating, it is important that you experience the pain fully, not hide it, or avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. You may need to reach out to family, friends, support groups, or a hotline if you find this stage being too painful. You may randomly cry during the day or at random times....IT'S OK!!! You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your pet. IT'S OK!!!
MSU Pet Support Hotline: 517-432-2696
Stage III: Anger
Guilt gives way to anger, and you may lash out or lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion. Find constructive ways to release this emotion. Find a new hobby or tackle a project on your house that would allow you to release pent up emotions without injuring relationships. This is also the stage where you have to be careful what you say to people...especially if they are offering condolences.
Stage IV: Depression
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others may not helpful to you during this stage of grieving. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
The following phases are sometimes lumped together as one step if you read about 5 stages of grief. For the sake of this article, we will be keeping them separate.
Stage V: The Upswing
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly. Take heart...you are more then halfway through the process. Take a moment to appreciate the small positives in your life daily.
Stage VI: Rebuilding
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
Stage VII: Acceptance
Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward. You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.