The next of the stages of grief and pet loss is the ‘Depression’ stage.
Much like Anger, Depression is often viewed by our society as something that is unnatural and must be treated. Showing your sadness is often seen as a weakness and something you should be encouraged to ‘snap out of’.
Depression after any loss is often viewed as unnatural, usually by people who have no understanding of loss themselves and believe that you should ‘get over it’ in a timescale they deem to be appropriate.
Boo as a puppy
But the loss of a pet IS depressing, and depression is a natural and appropriate response to this event. If the situation you are in is distressing and depressing, why wouldn’t you feel depressed?
You have lost a loved animal and friend, and the realisation of this is understandably deeply saddening.
It is important to recognise that the depression you will feel in grief and pet loss is not a sign of mental illness, it is simply an appropriate response to your loss and one of the stages of grief and pet loss.
Depression and sadness are a natural part of grief and pet loss recovery and a necessary step along the way.
You may find people around you are unable to cope with your sadness or depression. They may only be able to be around you by attempting to ‘snap you out of it’ or make light of the situation in an attempt to lift your spirits. Unfortunately this is usually an expression of that person’s own needs and their inability to tolerate your sadness rather than a response to your needs.
The best thing anyone can do for you when you are in the Depression stages of grief is to accept your sadness as natural and not attempt to talk you out of it or somehow make it better. Having someone there who will sit and listen to your thoughts without trying to ‘fix things’ or ‘cheer you up’ can be a tremendous help.
You need to be allowed to experience your sorrow as a part of your grief and pet loss recovery and in doing so you will find it will leave you as soon as it has served it’s purpose. As hard as it can be to endure, Depression does have a purpose. It helps us to slow down and take stock and to rebuild ourselves once more.
As with all the stages of grief and pet loss, Depression and sadness won’t necessary follow a logical pattern. You may feel as though you have worked your way through this stage, and then at certain meaningful times where you are reminded of your pet, you may find yourself experiencing these feelings again, but usually for briefer and briefer periods.
Typical thoughts when in the Depression stage are:
- ‘Life has no purpose or point to me anymore.’
- ‘What’s the point of getting up in the morning?’
- ‘What is the point of going on without my pet?’
- ‘I feel too guilty to eat when my pet can no longer eat?’
- ‘I feel bad doing normal things or taking pleasure in anything when my pet is gone.’
Typical behaviours when in the Depression stage are:
- You may wake up in the morning and have no desire to get up, or the thought of getting up and facing the world just seems like too much.
- You may find yourself withdrawing from life, caught in a fog of intense sadness.
- You may begin to wonder if there is any point in going on without your pet.
- You may begin to wonder about yourself and whether you are losing your mind.
- You may feel that other people around you do not understand your sadness and continually attempt to ‘cheer you up’ instead of accepting that your feelings are a natural part of your grief process.
- You may feel like your sadness will last forever.
- You may lose interest in eating, finding it difficult to eat and perhaps feeling guilty that your pet is no longer able to do so and start to lose weight as a result. If you are anything like me and regularly share your food with your pets, the sense that they are no longer there to take treats from you can be very depressing.
- You may over eat, seeking comfort in food and gaining weight as a result.
- You may feel under the weather and as though you have a bad cold or flu with fatigue and aches and pains.
- You may find it difficult to sleep and feel restless throughout the day.
- You may suffer feelings of extreme guilt and worthlessness.
- You may feel lonely, fearful and a sense of hopelessness.
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