5 Stages Of Grief

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Is It Normal To Suffer Like This And When Will It Be Over?

Yes, it is perfectly normal to be on the emotional roller coaster you are experiencing after loosing your pet. The grieving process is highly individual and quite unique, though the stages of grief are universal. Depending on the bond that you shared with your pet, you may have a more or less intense experience than others. We all process and react to death differently. There are so many variables.

And the time period can last from a few days to several weeks. Allow yourself to grieve. Cry and don't hold your tears inside. If you suppress your emotions, it may escalate into more complex problems and prolonged suffering. Despite the fact that you may be torn apart with emotional anguish, there is hope and there is help.

The different stages of grief may present themselves simultaneously and in a different order, don't worry! You will get through it by allowing yourself to go with the flow through this grieving process. Below is a brief description of each stage; Shock and Denial, Anger, Alienation and Distancing, Guilt, Depression and Resolution, also called Closure.

Shock & Denial

This is our mind's first response to the death of our pet. It's difficult to even comprehend the absolute reality and we become overwhelmed with numbness. With the initial shock, we tend become defensive in order to protect ourselves. Then disbelief sets in, we are consciously unwilling to accept the truth. This however changes with time and after a few hours, or days, we acknowledge the death. This is all normal.

Denial on the other hand is our mind refusing to accept reality. It is unconsciously to painful to bear the pain. Some may even bargain with God, making deals in hopes that the pet will come back again. Denial may serve as a "temporary band-aid" for immediate protection. It should however be a quick temporary state. But in the event that it becomes a prolonged mindset, professional help should be sought out.

Anger, Alienation & Distancing

Anger is a temporary response to the overwhelming outrage and frustration of having lost your pet. We may want to lash out at or alienate people around us if they disappoint us in their support; "It was just a pet"! Sometimes, distancing yourself may be the best way to handle this temporary anger.

The feeling of being alone is overwhelming, we feel misunderstood and are prone to overreacting. And certain distressing situation may create distorted reactions. Anger is a tangible feeling and we use it as an emotional substitute. It is normal to experience the crushing pain of mourning, but to continue living in misery is optional. We must give ourselves permission to heal.

Guilt

One of the most normal and commonly experienced responses is guilt. In order to move forward, we must resolve it. Somehow we feel that we failed our obligation and our perception of being able to prevent the death of our pet. This self-degradation is normal during the early stages of bereavement. It is not based on logic or reason and is usually unmerited guilt.

This emotional response is characterized by the obsessive "Should've-Could've" or "If Only" stage. In reality, the imagined control never existed. Our actions or inactions should be used as a learning tool for the future, not as punishment to create guilt about the past.

If anger is directed inward instead, it may easily translate into disturbing guilt. It may surface from an unconscious need to punish ourselves, so we become self destructive. We must learn to forgive ourselves, even when guilt is merited in cases of oversight or accidents.

Depression

Depression may be experienced throughout the entire mourning process and it's natural. We feel numb, indifferent and life appears heartbreaking. There may be loss of appetite, anxiety, disturbed sleep patterns and obsessive thoughts. There is a pending gloom hanging over our heads and we withdraw. It's even difficult to carry out day-to-day activities and life may appear to not be worth living.

A depression can be relatively minor and probably the most normal response to the death of a beloved pet. Depression diminishes the intensity of emotions and allows us time to gain acceptance of our new reality. Take baby steps; open the blinds, treat yourself to your favorite restaurant or meet up with a friend in a park. All life is change and growth, one of the hardest but most valuable lessons our pets can teach us.

On the other hand, a major depression can be very disabling and lead to suicidal thoughts. It is important to see a qualified mental health professional if this stage imposes any danger to yourself or others.

Resolution/Closure

Now is the time for spiritual and emotional healing. Pain stops being an immobilizing force and instead it becomes a precious memory. It doesn't mean that our intense love is diminished for our pet. Instead we are discovering a new dimension, making us a better and wiser person. We no longer consider ourselves victims, rather celebrants of the irreplaceable bond we once shared. This realization will elevate us by honoring our pet in this new way.

And we can smile again without feeling selfish. Our thoughts are no longer dark and painful. We think of them lovingly filled with heartwarming sentiment.  We owe it to our beloved pets and their living memory to heal ourselves and grow again. Our improved and ongoing existence is the ultimate testimony to that unconditional love.

Who Can Help Me With My Grieving Process?

All of the above stages can be greatly affected by underlying unresolved issues, previous psychological trauma or illnesses. If things are spinning out of control, you feel lost and no one seems to understand what you are going through, I am here to provide guidance in the process. Please contact me for a Complimentary Consult.