The loss of a beloved pet can be the deepest heartbreak of our lives. With each article, we will address and answer a key topic with Certified Pet Grief Counselor, Pina De Rosa (APLB / AAVSB).
If you wish to send in questions for Pina, please submit them to Pina De Rosa through www.PetBereavementCounseling.com
In our last topic we looked at 7 things you want to do/say when your friend’s pet passes.
With this topic, we get to look at what are some of the factors that should be considered after a beloved pet dies, before getting another one? When it would be right or wrong to do adopt, again? How should a bereaver respond to the advice of others, regarding this?
After a beloved pet dies, some of the factors that should be considered before getting another one are the following. Timing is essential. If the bereft pet owner gets another pet too soon, they and the pet may feel additional pain that is connected to unresolved matters or even potential resentment. Willingness and hesitation should be factored in: the client may be willing, but they may hesitate thinking it could be a betrayal to the deceased pet, and turn into rejection.
While mourning is a very unique and personal experience to each person, most people will need alone time with their private memories - at least for some time. Only the bereaver can tell when the timing is right, after they have spent enough time healing from the loss of their beloved furry companion.
At the right time, a new start can be beneficial. It would be honorable to adopt again after a time of bereavement and depression. It helps save another life, plus a new pet also opens the owner to new encounters and new social experiences. Regular walks with the new pet bring on the added benefit of movement and exercise, which is also helpful in healing the sorrow and solitude.
It would be wrong to adopt prematurely, or as a result of other people’s uninformed advice, even when that advice is well-intended. When the pet owner is still resolving their grief, it would be an inappropriate time to bring another pet in their life as the new pet could then become an added problem, upsetting the grieving owner even more. When there is a premature adoption of another pet to (consciously or unconsciously) numb the grief of the loss of the previous pet, what is likely to happen when the new pet passes away, is that the unprocessed grief from the previous loss risks coming out like a double geyser attacking the pet owner in full force, who will now be grieving both pets simultaneously. That can be unbearable.
How I would suggest that a bereaver should respond to the advice of others regarding adopting another dog is by sharing with them that “it will be a decision made at the appropriate time, when it feels right”. That time will be after they resolve and work through the bereavement process, so that it does not feel rushed or forceful.
While still grieving the loss of our beloved companion, becoming a volunteer for a local animal organization, even just for 1-2 hours/week, would be healthy coping way to ease into opening our hearts to another pet without rushing anything. Many animal rescues need assistance with walking their dogs, cleaning their kennels, taking care of their litter boxes, feeding all their animals. Another great option is becoming a foster parent as a way to be of service to a pet in need. When I was not ready to adopt, but I wanted to be of service, I did all of the above. It was wonderfully rewarding on so many levels. I spent quite some time turning private pain into public service, and I could not recommend it more highly.
Often times we hear a bereft pet owner say “I will never have a dog again. I could never ever have another cat / horse / bunny.” Our heartbreak speaks for us, especially when pain is so raw, so unbearable, and so deep. We believe we will never be able to go through such overwhelming grief. Our hearts are shattered with such harrowing pain, we can barely breathe as it is. It physically hurts to breathe and we swear off the idea of ever having a pet again. I had heard other people say it, and I that was definitely my case. I was certain of it.
Having said that, while I was in the depths of the overwhelming grief, I realized that I was putting all the focus on me - on my own pain. Initially that is completely understandable. Then as I began shifting the focus towards the love and healing that these beautiful pets selflessly gift us through their entire lives, I also started looking at “How can I be of service to a (new) little soul who needs love?” In other words with that question, I shifted the focus off me and put it on the (potential) new pet instead. When I started focusing on how can I be of service to another soul who needs love, then the idea of going through this unbearable heartbreak again, became not only a reality, but worth it – because it was no longer about me.
A friend of mine has been spending his adult life rescuing, fostering, adopting multiple pets simultaneously, hence he has seen many of his pets die over the years. When I asked him how he navigates such depth of pain over and over again, sometimes watching multiple pets die in the same year, he said that he loves giving rescue animals a second chance: “My heart breaks each time, so theirs doesn’t have to. I am happy to be a person that can love so much. The reality of being a pet owner is sadly that their life span is short, but the amount of love my animals receive and the second chances they all get at my house make it worth it. One of my dogs was 8 months old when I got her and she had already been abused and discarded. So having 9 years with her feels like a blessing…for both of us. I bet we both hate the goodbye, but we both also know it’s only for a period of time until I get to see her again.”
The deeper the grief, the kinder our hearts become. And if we are open to looking at death as being the ultimate healing, we can allow grief to be the gift it is in our lives. Then we can gently allow our hearts to open to be of service again to another gentle soul who needs love.
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