The Anniversary Reaction : Grieving Your Dog
by Scotty Valadao - www.fods.co.za
by Scotty Valadao - www.fods.co.za
The first year of a loss, is often the most difficult, with anniversary reactions happening around any period that was significant when your dog was with you – it’s birthday, when it came to live with you, going on holiday to a place you took your with dog you, the favourite walking area etc.
It may not even be an event that stirs the memories and often the sadness, and on occasion, depression. It could be something as simple as going past your favourite pet shop where you bought those delicious chew toys he loved, cleaning out a cupboard, and coming across a ball that was one of his favourite toys – it can even be a smell, such as smelling baked liver bread, which he adored and would just about anything for.
Over the period of the year, the severe pain does seem to diminish – nothing heals like time itself, it is said – and you may find, that although you will often think of your dog, that the depth of pain is not as intense, and you may not be thinking of him as often. However, this is not the same for all people, and in some cases, the pain of loss can go on for years.
In some cases, we may feel that we are totally over the actual loss, and life has gone on, then some event may trigger the old pain, loss and tears which is totally unexpected. This happened to me a few years after my beloved Brady had left. The tears had long ago stopped - I could talk about him easily and smile and laugh about the things he used to do, and really believed that I had totally accepted his loss. I had kept his favourite toys and coming across them one day, decided it was time to let these be enjoyed by another dog, and decided to give them to my son for his dogs. As I handed them over, I said, ‘these really were Brady’s favourite toys’, and out of nowhere, 4 years later, the memory of his passing was like yesterday, and the tears just started - out of nowhere and took me as much by surprise as they did my son.
When it approaches the anniversary date of your dogs passing, you may find yourself feeling ‘out of sorts’, irritable, bad tempered, and just not feeling like yourself. You may start to relive the memory of what happened, the grief may resurface, and the tears start to flow again – sometimes the anticipation and dread of the anniversary date, is actually worse that the anniversary itself.
All these feelings are normal, and just remind you how much you loved your dog, what a huge part he had in your life, and how much that relationship meant to you. I once read in an article that grief is funny – you desperately want it to go away, except for sometimes when you don’t want it to go away!
Grief is an emotion that helps you to remember your dogs passing, about remembering all the good times, not putting our feelings and emotions under a cushion, and ‘getting on with life’. Grief is natural and helps us to deal with what has happened. No two people grieve in the same way, or to the same depths, so never compare your feelings with that of another person and think that your reaction, no matter what it is, 'not normal'.
We often think we should bear the burden of grief by ourselves, as we don’t want to upset our family, however, it really is important to realize that we don’t need to grieve by ourselves – talk to people who knew your dog and would understand what you are feeling – don’t bury the emotions and feelings, it is important that you feel these and acknowledge them – this helps us with the healing process.
If you don’t feel like being with people on the anniversary day, then spend time by yourself – perhaps go out in nature and even to one of the places you are your dog used to walk. Remember the good times, how he may have chased after a ball, or ran around sniffing each and every tree, as if his mission in life. If the tears fall, let them, they will help in the healing process.
If you are inside, perhaps honour his passing by lighting a candle next to your favourite picture of him. Spend some time here and remember all the adventures you shared – tell him how much you loved him, and always will.
Some people like to honour their dogs memory, by going to the local shelter, perhaps taking some food and toys, and just spend time, either taking a dog out for a walk, or just sitting giving another dog some love – what a lovely way to honour the dog we loved so much and lost – by sharing that love with another dog.
During this anniversary period, you may feel really sad, battle to eat, be off your food a bit, be angry, have a hard time sleeping, feel like you let your dog down at the end – there can be a host of different feelings. Just take the time you need to help you to deal with this painful period, and always do it in a way that feels right to you.
Grief, as said above, is a normal occurrence, however if it feels like it is overtaking you, that you just can’t get over it, then do speak to your local GP and ask them for the number of somebody who can help you with grief counselling. There is absolutely no shame in this – if you needed a pill for a headache, you would not hesitate to take one – the exact same thing applies if you need help to come to terms with the grief you are experiencing. Also remember, you are not alone – so many of us have loved and lost our beloved companions and we know just how you feel!
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