“I just can’t imagine them not being here.”
A client said this to me last week about her cat who had just started an end of life care plan (the cat has cancer).
She couldn’t face the idea of her sweet cat not being with her forever.
That thought was really upsetting to her, so she asked how she could find peace and even learn to let go.
She’s not the only one to become really upset at the thought of losing a sweet animal companion.
The truth is that it can be very hard to accept the mortality of our fur babies and to accept the fact that they can’t stay with us in their physical form forever.
When they start to show signs of ageing and maybe their mobility or general health declines it can affect us deeply.
For some people, this can prey in the back of their mind and cause a lot of distress.
I’ve seen people grieve for their pets years before that pet actually dies.
More often it’s in the last few months of a pet’s life that this really can become intense for pet guardians.
You’re not crazy to feel that way.
If you’ve felt that way, please don’t think you’re crazy or stupid.
This is a form of grief, it’s called anticipatory pet bereavement and I work with it a lot in my practice.
Actually, it’s is the part of my work that tugs at my heart strings the most. Why?
It’s hard to see loving pet guardians suffering the loss of their pet deeply while that pet is still alive.
This is a time when I encourage people to make the most of their remaining time left with their pets, celebrating their life, enjoying precious time with them.
Yet people can be in such distress that they can’t enjoy quality time with the pets they cherish.
Here are my suggestions for working with such grief while your pet is still alive.
It’s natural to grieve, suffering is optional.
Wallace Sife, author of ‘The Loss of a pet’ wisely said
“Mourning pain is normal and inevitable, but extended misery is optional.”
Grief is a natural process, so it’s ok to have feelings of grief, yet when they take away from your enjoyment of your pet’s remaining time on this planet, it may be time to look at strategies to deal with them so you don’t lose too much precious time that could be spent with your pet to worry, fear and sadness.
I’m not encouraging anyone to hide their grief, that isn’t helpful, but instead to find ways to ensure you aren’t engulfed in it.
When waves of emotion come up, I often recommend that clients let the waves move through (I’ll demonstrate how to use a technique called EFT tapping to help that), not resisting or judging them, more acknowledging them and then letting them go again.
Then re-focus on the here and now.
Learn from your pets, be present.
Our pets take each moment as it comes, they don’t fear the future, they don’t fear death.
They can teach us so much about being present in the now (the now where they are still there to hold and care for).
I truly feel that death isn’t the huge issue to them that it is to us. That helps me to feel more peaceful. It’s us who have a very hard time with death and dying.
After all dying is a natural process and bodies aren’t designed to live forever.
Can you be more like your pet and not be in anticipation or worry of the future, but be present with them here and now?
Imagine a point of time in the future ( say 5 years from now) and then imagine what you would give to come back to this time, to have another minute or hour with your precious pet.
Now focus on the present. Right now, your pet is still alive to hold, to care for, to love. So focus on loving them right now (for your future self even) and when grief comes, focus, remind yourself that they’re still here now.
Focus on them and their needs.
You are their advocate. If they are nearing the end of their life, it’s your job to monitor their quality of life to ensure that they do not suffer.
Talk with your vet, they often have quality of life charts to help you do this. I know you want the best for them. Trust that you’ll be able to know what is truly best for them and act in their best interests, even if that means letting them go if their quality of life deteriorates too much.
Take time to just ‘be’ with them.
Often when our pets are very ill, we spend a lot of time tending to them, with treatments, monitoring their quality of life, noticing their ailments.
Please remember to take time to just ‘be’ with them, to enjoy their company.
I often recommend that my clients reminisce with them and tell them how much they love them.
Get help if you need it.
If your emotions are very intense, it may be worth seeking help from a pet loss counsellor such as myself or a health practitioner as well as friends and family. I often see that intense grieving can be linked to and bring up past issues and losses, making you feel even worse.
I use a technique called EFT tapping to help people deal with their emotions and find more peace with them.
Here is a demonstration that you can try for yourself.
There is no ‘easy fix’ to the grief we can feel when it comes to the end of our pet’s lives. Such grief isn’t ‘wrong’, it’s natural. Yet, being engulfed in that grief robs us of our peace of mind and of quality time with our pets. Find ways to stay present with your pet and enjoy the time you have left with them as best you can.
If you need extra help with this, get in touch by email or schedule a free 15 minute consultation.
P.S. If you’d like to learn simple energy techniques to support your elderly pets as they age then join my free Golden Oldie Pet Love Challenge