So many times, I have read a post in which someone says that they feel guilty because they grieve more intensely for their animal family members than they did for their human family members. There are several reasons why so many of us feel that way, and I would like to go into some of them here.

First, our animals love us and accept us under any circumstances. It doesn’t matter if we are happy, sad, angry; rich or poor; living in a mansion or a shack; in the best of health or not. They love and accept us under any conditions, and they never tell us to change. They are with us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. They never give us advice, and they don’t criticize us. All they ever do is love us and hope that we love them.

Another thing that adds to the intensity of our grief is that we are 100% responsible for our animal family members. Our human family members can tell the doctors where it hurts or feels wrong, but our animals can't. It's up to us to notice when something is not right, and to get them in for treatment. When we do take them in, we (and the vets) have a lot of work to do trouble shooting the symptoms most of the time, and that isn't easy when the patient can't tell us what their symptoms are. When you add to that the fact that our animals frequently aren't themselves in the stressful environment of the vet clinic, it can take longer to diagnose the condition.

As animals, one of their greatest survival instincts is to hide any signs of illness or injury so as not to appear weak. For that reason, we often don't know anything is wrong until it's too late. We feel as if we've failed them somehow, and that feeling adds to the grief. The fact is, we did not fail them. We did the best we could with the information and resources we had at the time. Our animals know that we would have done anything to help them, and they know the love we had for them.

In addition to that, when we lose a precious family member, everyone understands why we grieve, and they don't put a time limit on it. Too often, people don't understand why we grieve for our animals beyond the early days. They tell us we should "get over it" and "move on." Did you ever hear that from a family member, friend, or co-worker when you lost your parents? Probably not. Losing our animal family members is a very intimate experience that few others (outside of this forum) understand fully.

Our furries loved us no matter what. All they ask is that we accept their love and treat them with kindness. There is no reason for anyone to feel guilty for the intensity of their grief under any circumstances. Grief is different for each of us, and it's different each time we have to face it. Those of us who have lost precious family members and then have had to face the loss of an animal family member are faced with the same depth of grief, but with fewer people who understand. We feel more alone in the loss of an animal.

The fact is: Love is love, loss is loss, and grief is grief. Period.

Susan Lynch © 2004

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank you! I wrote that after experiencing the loss of Buddy Guy, my amazingly unique little Bengal Cat. He went to the Rainbow Bridge tin the night following surgery to remove and resection his intestine. He came through the surgery beautifully, but when the clinic staff returned the following morning, he was gone. My heart shattered, and it took a long time to put the pieces back together. His surgery was 5 years ago tomorrow morning. I was there with him before they took him in for the procedure, and I was there waiting when the vet finished and came out to give me his report.

Just thinking of the memories of that emotional roller coaster brings tears to my eyes. We never "get over" our losses. We learn to live with the new state of normal in our lives, and to treasure the memories of the love we shared ~ and always will share. I know that Buddy, and all the animals I have loved and lost, are pure love energy for eternity, and they live in spirit and in my heart forever and always.

So, again I thank you. Receiving validation from another understanding human being carries a special meaning for me tonight as I face this bittersweet anniversary of Buddy's eternal health and happiness.


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