Did you know that there are  Grief and Loss Stages for Pet Loss?

Are you wondering if your feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and relief are normal?

Do people make you feel weird because you are sad that your pet died?

Here is the thing about Grief and Loss Stages for Pet Loss . . .

If you are feeling sad, angry, or like your heart is raw with pain. Please understand that this is absolutely okay.

We all experience these feelings in different ways and at different times. By remembering that your grief is unique and special to the relationship that you had with your treasured pet, you can be ready with less confusion or difficulty for your future stages of grief.

Keep in mind there is more to your journey of coping with the fact that your pet is no longer physically in your life.

Pet loss grief actually has seven identifiable stages. By understanding these seven stages of grief, your disordered emotions and possible shock about what you are now faced with can change. So you can hopefully feel less stress as you move through these stages.

Learning which stage of pet loss grief you are experiencing is extremely helpful to your coping and healing journey. You can gain compassion and respect for your own process. Both of which are vital to finding joy after suffering so much intense grief from your loss.

Living Without Your Pet is Ridiculously Difficult.

The shock, horror, and unrelenting pain can easily inhibit you from taking care of yourself. By exploring the stages of grief, you can begin to learn self-compassion and gain a needed understanding of your journey.

No matter what you are experiencing after the death of your pet, one of the most important things to remember is to cherish the life you had with them. The memories you have are beautiful. And the stages of grief that you are experiencing will only have a positive effect. A healing effect on your continued spiritual relationship with your pet.

The grief that you are feeling right now is perfect. So please be kind to yourself and not expect anything more or anything less. It is there, and it’s not going to go away. Yet, it will change as time progresses.

The Seven Stages of Grief

It is extremely helpful to know not only what normal grief is but also what the normal stages of grief are.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in the hospice movement. While she wasn’t a pet grief person, what she discovered can be applied to the journey of pet grief.

In 1969, in her book On Death and Dying, Dr. Kubler-Ross made the five steps of grief and/or death well-known. The following five steps cover the stages of grieving for the death of a loved one:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

These five stages became very popular and are recognized widely, mostly as they apply to the dying process. However, people working in this field began to expand on Kubler-Ross’s various philosophies and standards.

Currently, there are seven stages of grief:

  1. Shock and Denial
  2. Pain and Guilt
  3. Anger and Bargaining
  4. Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness
  5. Adjustment to Life
  6. Your New Normal
  7. Acceptance and Hope

Over the years my clients have told me that this information is valuable and helps prepare them every day to live more fully and have hope for the future.

Keep in mind that since your journey is yours, you may not experience all of these stages as your daily pet loss progresses. Yet you may. Whatever you experience is normal, so be compassionate with yourself for what you are going through. Never compare your experience to someone else’s.

Case Study—Melissa, Ra, and the Seven Stages

an image of a woman holding her cat as it pertains to the stages of pet loss grief

Melissa, a client of mine, experienced all seven stages of grief. She and I started working together twelve months after Ra died. When Melissa recalled her feelings and actions through our conversations, she felt much better and more in control of what she had experienced and was currently experiencing.

Even still, Melissa was confused and worried because she continued to break down in tears whenever she thought of getting another pet. Her best friend was telling her that twelve months was too long to still be feeling sad and that she should be over it by now.

Stage One: Shock and Denial

As we worked together, Melissa began to understand why she felt the unshakable feelings of trauma and not believing that Ra had died. Melissa recalled that during the first 24 hours of being alone without Ra, she felt totally in shock and nauseous. She remembered checking under the bed countless times throughout the night.

Melissa was distressed, upset, and in denial that Ra wasn’t with her any longer, even twelve months later. She said to me during one of our calls, “This did not happen. I know Ra will come back to me.”

Stage Two: Pain and Guilt

Melissa was feeling intense torment and sorrow. So much so that she suffered from headaches since Ra had died. I assured her that her feelings were common. And in accordance with the second stage of grief.

When this information started to settle in and become more accepted, Melissa understood her feelings better. When she began to forgive herself for any guilt she had, her headaches started to go away.

Stage Three: Anger and Bargaining

When Melissa got angry, she was insistent on blaming herself and her spiritual deities. She told me that at times she still bargained with them and asked them to give her directions on to bring Ra back, alive.

Melissa told me she went through a stage where she was furious. Melissa explained, “My anger was so intense that I had myself believing that I could bring Ra back to life by bargaining and convincing my guides that it was possible. When you helped me realize that others experience this and it is common, I didn’t feel so weird about my anger and expectations.”

Stage Four: Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness

When Melissa and I started to work together, she was beginning to understand that anger and bargaining were part of the journey. Plus, she was also experiencing some depression and loneliness.

Whenever she started to think about Ra and the times that they had had together, she felt sad and very lonely. She told me, “Everyone around me keeps saying that I am grieving long enough. I don’t have anyone that I can talk to. I feel like I have to do this alone.”

Over time, Melissa began to understand that her feelings of loneliness were part of the grief process. Especially when she reflected on the past. After she understood that her reflections triggered loneliness, she was able to experience her feelings in a different way.

She even shared with me, “I am so glad I can give myself permission every day to not be afraid to think about Ra. Now that I understand that my feelings are normal, I am able to reflect on the times Ra and I spent on the bed snuggling. This memory now fills my heart with joy.”

Stage Five: Adjustment to Life

Once Melissa began to understand the stages of grief, she began to experience her life differently. She started to allow herself to feel happy, and she even began to explore the idea of adopting another pet.

She confided one day, “Wendy, I have felt so many crazy and uncomfortable things during the past year. Oh my goodness, it is hard to believe that I can actually think of Ra now and have joy back in my heart when I think of him. I am now ready to move on, but I don’t want to disrespect my bond with Ra. How do I do that?”

This was a great place for Melissa to be in her grief journey. She poses a very poignant question Keep in mind that this period is about integrating these changes into your daily life. They will help you rescue your joy and not forget or disrespect your pet.

Stage Six: Your New Normal

As Melissa adjusted to her life and the changes of not having Ra present. She began to not be concerned about what other people thought of her grief. Also, she began to look for another pet.

She adjusted to the myriad changes in her new life. And recognized that her heart was ready to open to another pet. She knew that by getting another pet, she wasn’t being disrespectful to Ra. Ra still held a very special place in her soul.

Melissa started to work at her local humane society as a volunteer in a special program.  She worked to help pets that were difficult to place for adoption. She loved her new volunteer position and six months later adopted a pet that she was able to help.

Stage Seven: Acceptance and Hope

When Melissa began to experience the last stage of pet grief, she was ready to move forward with an entirely different attitude. She accepted the fact that Ra had died.

Melissa found her new normal and had a plan of action on how she was going to share her life with her new pet. The food, the doctors, the new activities. Now she could live every day with joy. As well as hope, and a desire to do the best she could with her new pet.

This was the stage when she became more aware and accepted her grief stages. She was confident that she could provide everything that her new pet needed. It was easier to make decisions through whatever stage of grief she was experiencing.

Did Melissa forget Ra at this stage? No, she did not! She was able to recognize that death is something that we cannot avoid. And that death does allow for new life and love.

Remember

These stages are references to guide you on how you can process your particular pet loss grief. Melissa experienced all the stages. By no means do you need to experience them all as Melissa did. Or even move through the stages in the given order. This is your time and your journey to experience.

Please remember that you are not alone in your grief journey. There are others that are experiencing the same thing as you.