Tuesday, September 6, 2016

If you suffer from pet loss: Some thoughts about unique pet loss pain

Probably almost everyone knows the words “pet loss.” Also, a good number of people may have heard that sometimes the pain from the loss of a pet can be worse than other losses, including even the loss of family or friends. We can imagine some pets were so loved that their passing leaves the owners with great pain, but why can it be so painful and potentially over an extended time? This question arose for me because of my own loss of our 16 and half years-old little tiny fluffy thing who also modeled for my blog postings. Is there anything different from losing a loved person and a loved pet?

First, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I have to emphasize that I am not intellectualizing it to avoid my pain and sadness. As I have expressed in my articles here, I do not deny or avoid my emotional experience by thinking or writing about it at all. It has been quite hard for me, and I cried a lot before and after Kiwi left us. I am writing about it because it may help some readers; not to avoid my pain, because doing so would actually eventually hurt me emotionally.

Okay, now why can loss of a pet be different and sometimes more hurtful? Of course, their unconditional love, the time we spend together, our needs, etc.; these variables are factors that determine the degree of loss, but they are the same things that come into play with the loss of human family and friends. Then what could be different? Here is my thought. I think that the “uncertainty” or “inability of knowing what is the right thing to do” could be the big factor here.

Let me explain what I’m talking about. When the end comes near for a pet, we owners have to make a variety of decisions about their food, treatment, and when to “put them down”. No offense, but nobody can know what is the best thing to do with 100% certainty, because our pets cannot let us know what they would prefer! In the case of people, we often know what they want and we can respect their wishes, although it can still be really hard. But when it comes to pets, we can never fully know. We just observe, think, consult, struggle, and eventually make a huge decision.

That is really tough. You decide when they will go without knowing when they really want to go. It is an extremely difficult reality to deal with. So what do many people do to deal with this situation? They come up with some “good” reasons: “He was suffering,” “It was time for her to go,” “He appeared miserable,” “I think this is a good thing to do,” “I know she wanted to go,” “My vet told me it was time,” and so on. Totally understandable and without any of these reasons, it would be too hard of a decision to make.  At the same time, however, I am wondering that there may be a long-term negative impact from focusing on the head at the expense of the heart on our emotional health.

As I wrote above, we cannot know what our pets really want us to do. They might want to stay with us until they die naturally no matter how much pain they feel, or they might want to go much sooner because of their suffering. We will never know the right answer. The only thing we actually do know is that we can never know the answer. So we have a lot of unbearable guilt to deal with and we automatically try to alleviate it by making ourselves believe in the “good reasons.”

I am not against this at all. I do understand we cannot help such rationalization. However, the possible problem is that because we know that our decision may have been the wrong one (because we can just never know for sure), we will have this doubt deep inside us, and this doubt along with guilt will come back unconsciously and harm us constantly and/or eventually for a long time. It’s just not possible to tell a lie to ourselves.

For me, this makes total sense. I was aware my mind was going in the direction of putting Kiwi to sleep, while struggling with the process. Therefore, I decided to let go these “good reasons,” but just accept the uncertainty as it was. I accepted that I would not know what Kiwi really wanted us to do for him, and took the best guess, while feeling awful and guilty. I just accepted the possibility that it might not have been what he wanted. I just accepted that I would live with this pain and guilt (maybe) forever, instead of justifying our decision. I just accepted it.

Yes, it sucks and I wish there were a different way, but I can’t find one. Counter-intuitively, however, I have more peace than I would have: I am honest, and stay with all the pain, which has somehow brought up more joy, love, happiness, and appreciation of him. Our mind is so interesting and we may never fully understand it, but it appears that acceptance is the way to live with it, instead of justification.

I hope this article may help for some people who have to go through this horrible experience.

Love you very much, Kiwi, and you will always be deep in my heart.


  1. Heidi from Yoga Shakti a while backSeptember 9, 2016 at 5:55 PM

    Sorry to hear about Kiwi :( When I lost my dog, I was very sad too; and even till today (almost 9 years already), I still think of her often. But once I thought of how much fun and love she had in her life, I felt comfort. Kiwi must had a great life with lots of love as well.

  2. Hello Heidi.

    Thanks a lot for your comment. It's so sad to lose our family, isn't it? I really appreciated your message.

    Hope you are doing well. Keep in touch!

  3. Thank you so much for your message,Annie!