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Does Love Go On With Memories?

by Joy Davy, MS, LCPC, NCC

Even after death, the relationship goes on. This is an idea that brings comfort to many. You have your animal companion in your heart, a part of you, and as you go on through life, and think of your friend, the relationship continues to develop.

Your perspectives change, your appreciation may increase, and the love is always there.
eskie in snow
Whenever we get a big snowfall, my husband and I always think of Buddy, our American Eskimo mix, who loved to run out into snow showers and scoop up the soft snow on his nose, and then roll around in it, making snow-dog-angels.

When our kids would go to the sled hill, Buddy would go, too, running up and down the hill, greeting every man, woman and child there joyfully, beside himself with happiness.

When the kids would be shoveling, Buddy would be right there, lying in the snow, soaking in the crystal white ambience.

When the children would make a snowman, there would be Buddy, running in circles, playing, and guarding “his kids.”

“There was never a dog like him,” I say, whenever we get a good Chicago snowfall.

“There will never be another,” my husband says, looking out into the snowy yard that Buddy would love to dive into.

“What a great dog,” our (now grown) children say, remembering the sled hill.

And although we loved and appreciated Buddy at the time, I think our understanding of his special qualities continues to grow as time goes by.

We remember when we first got him as a pup. We had stopped in to a local shelter “just to look,” and came out with what looked like a little polar bear cub. He grew to be a strikingly beautiful dog, with a swagger and a smile that would make you think he understood full well what a charismatic impression he made.

eskie in grass
He was gentle and tolerant, and tuned in to the emotions and needs of his human family.

Even now, five years after his death, I feel a warmth in my heart when I think of Buddy. I feel his support, his sense of fun, his unwavering optimism that each day was going to be a great one, and each motion I made might result in something good to eat, or an adventure of some kind. And for Buddy, any time spent with his people was an adventure.

Even now, I think of Buddy as one of the important beings in my life, one of those milestone influences whose message of love and support stays with me always. He gave his full attention to making us happy, and we were his sole purpose in life. He was with our family during the growing up years of our children, and in my mind he stands for everything that was fun and beautiful and full of heart about those days.

I feel that even now, his message to me is, whatever you think it’s all about, think again: it’s all about the love.

Thank you, Buddy, for being who you were and are. Love you.

Please write your memories of your animal friend. What are the memories that still bring warmth to your heart?

joydavy2013

Joy Davy, M.S., L.C.P.C., N.C.C.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
15 Spinning Wheel Road
Suite 417
Hinsdale, Illinois  60521
Phone:  630-935-7915

website:  www.joydavy.com

please see my Pet Grief Blog:            http://joydavy2013.wordpress.com/

 

What Do I Tell My Kids?

Five Ways to Support Children When a Pet Dies

Pet Loss Grief Book for Children

Pet Loss Grief Book for Children

Your pet’s death may be your children’s first experience with loss and feelings of grief. This experience presents an opportunity for you to teach your children to express grief in emotionally healthy ways, free of shame or embarrassment.

Many grief specialists believe that children can learn and grow from the grief if the adults in their lives follow a few key guidelines:

1. Be as honest as possible 

It’s tempting to try to protect children from any kind of emotional pain. Yet, attempting to “soften the blow” by telling children that a pet ‘ran away’ or ‘went to live with someone else’ only creates a different kind of pain. Losing a pet under any circumstances will cause children to grieve and thinking that a family pet ran away may add feelings of abandonment and rejection.

2. Encourage children to view a pet’s body and to say good-bye 

If a pet dies suddenly, it can be beneficial for your child to see the pet’s body and be able to say good-bye in whatever way they are comfortable. This may include touching the pet, holding and hugging the pet, and even spending time alone with the pet’s body. Depending on where the pet’s death occurs, either you or your veterinarian can clean the pet’s fur of any blood, remove any medical equipment or supplies (catheters, tape, etc.) and position the body so it is soothing to see, perhaps curled into a pet bed or nestled into a container that has been lined with a soft blanket.

3. Involve children in the euthanasia process

The key to a comforting good-bye process for children is how well they are prepared to face their pet’s death. Speak with your veterinarian before your pet is euthanized so you are well informed about the procedures your child will witness and about the level of emotional support you and your child can expect to receive.

Children who are well prepared can usually handle the intense emotions that are part of euthanasia. Research, along with clinical experience, shows that it is beneficial for children to say a personal good-bye to a loved one who has died.

4. Allow children to make their own choices 

Children should be allowed to make their own choices about how much they wish to be involved with the process of saying good-bye to a pet. Older children may choose to be with a pet when the euthanasia is performed, while younger children may choose to say good-bye while their pet is still alive. Other children may choose to view a pet’s body only after death has occurred, reassuring themselves that their beloved pet has really died.

Very young children don’t really understand death and have short attention spans. If your young child wants to be included, it’s a good idea to ask a friend to be with your family when your pet dies, so he or she can take care of your young child. This allows you and your older children uninterrupted time to say your own good-byes.

5. Allow time for grief

Since children have shorter attention spans than adults and because they express their grief differently, be aware that your children may grieve the loss in “short bursts.” Children are unable to sustain intense grief emotions for long periods of time. Therefore, it is normal for children to go from crying and being very upset one minute, to wanting to go and play the next. This is not a sign of indifference or poor coping; it is simply they way in which they need to work through their grief.

As a caring parent, it may be tempting for you to try to “cheer up” your grieving children by immediately adopting a new pet. Sometimes this works and it is often at the children’s own request.  However, while some people are able to bond with a new pet and grieve for the one who died at the same time, there’s no “right” time to adopt a new pet. You want to be sure that your children don’t get the message that a family member who dies is easily replaceable.

While adopting a new pet may help your whole family feel better, grieving together can also bring you closer together. Then, when everyone feels ready, a new pet can join you and find his or her own joyful place in your family.

from Dana Durrance, M.A. Veterinary Grief Specialist and Consultant