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  • Saying Goodbye to My Big Boy - Coping with the Loss of a Pet


    I had to put my big boy down yesterday . . . my beautiful Cylex. My bear. It was the hardest day of my life. I awoke today to a colorless world, feeling like an empty shell of a person. Nothing seems to matter anymore. My heart aches, and I can't seem to wrap my brain around the painful truth that he is gone. He's everywhere . . . his toys. His bed. His hair still hugging the corners of the house. He's everywhere, yet nowhere. I feel almost panicked at the realization that I will never rub those ears ever again. I'll never his see his dorky smile when the ball pops out of his toothless mouth and he looks up at me as if to say, "Well, are you going to get it for me, or what, Ma?" I'll never hear his booming seal-bark, that god-awful bark that used to drive us and the neighbors crazy . . . the one that deprived us of sleep night after night. For the first time in a year and a half, the house was quiet last night, yet I didn't sleep a wink. The silence was deafening. His energy was gone, and with it, a part of my soul.


    Coping Strategy #1: Let it out. 

    The exert above was the first paragraph in a long letter that I typed to no one in particular on the day after my big boy passed. I hadn't anticipated the garbled knot of misplaced emotions that would tear my insides apart in the hours after his death. The condolence texts and calls poured in, but I couldn't talk to anyone, knowing I wouldn't be able to hold it together. Still, I needed to vent so I sat at the computer and began writing. I can't explain why, but for me, the act of writing my feelings and thoughts on paper allowed me to decompress and release some of the negative energies that had taken hold. As I vented, the tone of my writing even changed, so much so that by the end of my letter, I had actually thanked the universe for allowing my big boy to have passed peacefully in the comfort of his home. My sweet beautiful boy was blissfully unaware, happily eating pizza when he became groggy and fell asleep in my arms. My wish is that every animal could pass in this way . . . in the loving arms of their owners in the comfort of their homes, merrily eating pizza. My letter ended with a note to my Cylex, a promise that we see each other again, a vision of him galloping like a lion through an endless green field toward me.

    When a beloved pet passes, the pain is real. You lost a family member and you may find yourself buckling under the weight of sadness, despair, loneliness, anger, and disbelief. A first step to healing is to release these emotions in a way that fits you. Talk about your feelings to your family, friends, or support group. Write a letter to the universe, or to your pet that has passed. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Or a song. It doesn't matter the method . . . just let it out. 




    Coping Strategy #2: Create a Memorial

    One of my greatest fears was that time would steal the memory of my big boy from me. I found great solace in creating a memorial for him . . . an enchanted little nook on my property filled with trinkets and gifts from others . . . a quiet place where I could go to sit in nature and be with my boy. My husband and I went to the beach and found some driftwood, which we tied together with jute to make a charming cross. That and a handful of perfectly rounded white beach cobbles were the first addition to my memorial space for him. I splurged when I saw the work of two different artisans on Etsy, and had them create for me custom beautiful mosaic tile natural stones, and a whimsical garden sign.  


    There is no right or wrong way to create your memorial. It could be a few trinkets on your mantle or bookshelf, a bed of newly planted flowers in your garden, a handmade cross made of found sticks and stones, or a locket with a few hair clippings from your pet. The only thing that matters is that this special object or place evokes the loving memory of your pet whenever you set eyes on it.


    Coping Strategy #3: Remember the Good Times

    It's easy to get swept away in the grief following the passing of a fur baby. For me, I found some joy during this time by rifling through old photos and videos that I had taken on my phone, and reminiscing about my quirky old boy with others who loved him. My husband and I chose a few of our favorite photos and had them enlarged and framed, and we felt great comfort placing the photos throughout our home. It made us feel like he was still here in the home. My favorite, shown below, always brought a smile, even in the darkest first days. Remember the good times. They will always outshine the bad.


    Coping Strategy #4: Increase Quality-Time Spent with Other Pets

    You are not the only one feeling loss. If you have a multi-pet family, then your pets may also be mourning their loss of their friend. They are going to need your assurance and comfort as they adapt to the change, and it's important that you shower them with positive loving energy. Spend quality time with each pet. Do something fun and spontaneous. An early morning jog down a sandy beach. A walk through a woods. A game of catch with a new toy.  There is no better healing energy than spending time with animals. And they need you as much as you need them during this time.

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