|Anticipating The Loss of a Pet|
|If your pet is aging, seriously injured or chronically or
terminally ill, you may find yourself experiencing all the emotions of
grief in anticipation of losing your pet. Grieving that begins before
a death occurs is known as anticipatory grieving, and the physical and
emotional reactions involved are the same as those experienced in normal
It's tough to watch your cherished pet's health and quality of life deteriorate over time. Constantly reminded that your pet's death is inevitable, you may experience intense feelings of guilt, denial, anxiety and ambivalence.
If expensive treatment or care is required, at times you may wish your pet would die — and then feel very guilty for having that wish. On the other hand, in an effort to cope with your feelings of guilt and loss, you may deny the seriousness of your pet's condition and, against all odds, spend time and money you can't afford to seek out more tests, more treatment and more surgery. If you're faced with the decision of euthanasia, you may be struggling with anxiety over separating from your pet, uncertain how you'll ever bring yourself to say good-bye. Torn between not wanting to see your pet suffer and not wanting to lose the animal, you may go to great lengths to postpone or to avoid the decision all together.
Coming To A Decision
Deciding when and whether to euthanize your pet is probably one of the most difficult choices you'll ever have to make. Because your pet has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness may not be reason enough to resort to euthanasia. Depending on the stage and severity of your pet's illness or injury, and the resources you have available, you and your pet may still have many happy years left together. Exploring all aspects of the decision with your veterinarian and with others whom you trust is very important. Keep in mind, however, that in the end, the decision belongs to you and you alone.
If euthanasia is being considered for your pet, like most people
you're probably wondering, "How will I know when it's time?"
As you come to answer that question, think about the following:
Preparing For What Lies Ahead
Most of us find it very difficult to think about planning ahead for the death of our pets. We act as if merely thinking or talking about the pet's dying will somehow make it happen — or we act as if not thinking or talking about our pet's illness will somehow make it go away. Yet the reality is that none of us has the power to cause the death of another merely by thinking or talking about it — and illnesses aren't prevented or cured simply by choosing not to think about them.
Detaching from a cherished pet is just as difficult whether it happens suddenly or over an extended period of time. But having time to prepare for what lies ahead can be one of the more positive aspects of anticipatory grieving. You can make the most of the time remaining by talking with your veterinarian, family, friends and trusted others about the pet's death as a probability (not as a remote possibility). You can also use this time for:
by Martha M. Tousley,
RN, MS, FT, DCC All