Letting Go - The Loss Of A Pet
Written by Alexandra Chauran. Copyright(c) 2008, PsychicRx, all rights reserved. Originally published as "Dealing With A Pet's Death" on 6/20/2008 in PsyBlog.
As a little girl I wept bitterly as "Squeaky" the mouse was laid to rest in a cigarette box coffin in the back yard. My parents stood respectfully, if not patiently, as I said a few words that didn't do justice to the magnificent life that rodent had lived in my young eyes. Though such a small event, years later the memory was easily able to bring tears to my eyes. Such backyard rituals are happening the world over as children learn one of their first lessons about death.
But how is an adult supposed to react to the death of a beloved pet? Our culture has a strange relationship with death. When it happens on the television or movie screen, it is a spectacle, but when it happens in our homes, it is to be immediately removed from our presence and minds and rushed to a sterile and distant place. An adult is expected to return to work almost immediately, even after the death of a parent, and one whose grief lingers on might even be diagnosed with a mental illness. Surely the death of a pet should not even make an adult bat an eye?
There are some cultural norms that I believe should be overcome, and the grieving process needs an overhaul! If you find yourself reacting "abnormally" to the death of a pet by being sad for more than an instant, allow yourself to process in the way that you need to. As long as you're not harming yourself or others, there's no "wrong way" to grieve. So take time off work if you need to do so!
This year, my beloved pet snake that I had owned ever since she was a hatchling passed away. While the outside world might believe that crying over a snake is foolish, I mourned her loss in the way I felt was appropriate. I brought her things outside to release the energy into the spring breeze. For burial, I lovingly curled her body into a circle, and to me she looked like Ouroboros, the snake symbol of eternal life. I laid her to rest underneath a rose bush, and in doing so I laid to rest my cares for what society would think about the love I shared with my pet and the sadness I felt after she was gone.