The Stages of Grief - Pet Death


Bargaining is the next stage in the stages of grief commonly experienced with pet death. Remember that whilst the stages of pet death grief are described in a logical step by step way, you may not experience them in this way.

In the case of Bargaining, you may find yourself experiencing the symptoms of this stage briefly over repeated periods. 

Henry and Charlie

This stage is where you literally find yourself Bargaining for your pet. You may bargain with God, the Universe or any higher power you may believe in, in the hope that your pet’s life may be restored and everything will somehow return to how it was before the loss of a pet.

Whilst many people are aware that the Bargaining stage can occur before the loss of a pet and pet death, in the stage known as Anticipatory Grief, for example you may find yourself promising to be a better owner if only your pet can get better, many people don’t realise that this stage can also occur after a pet death.

The Bargaining stage also includes a feeling most pet owners are all too familiar with, the ‘what if’s?’.

Following a pet death most of us find ourselves suffering from a horrible case of the ‘what if’s’ or ‘if only’s’ where we long to have life returned to how it once was and to go back in time to take or reverse whatever actions we feel we should have done differently.

Guilt often accompanies Bargaining as our focus on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ cause us to find fault in ourselves and our actions and anything we ‘think’ we could or should have done differently.

In reality, Bargaining helps us to find order in the chaos of pet death. It can keep other emotions and pain at a distance while we work our way through all the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ and give us time to adjust.

Many people are fully aware when they are in the Bargaining stage that their thoughts and actions are really just a temporary relief and distraction from their pain.

They know or grow to know that they did all they could for their pet and could do no more, but even when you know this, the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ still fill your thoughts for a while.

This is natural and to be expected after any major loss in your life. 

Typical thoughts when in the Bargaining stage are:

- ‘Please let my pet be with me again, I’ll do anything.’

- ‘Please let my pet visit me in spirit, I promise to be a better person.’

- ‘I’ll do anything to see my pet again at Rainbow Bridge.’

- ‘I’ll take better care of my pets in future, please don’t let anything bad happen to my other pets.’

- ‘I’d do anything to just see my pet one more time.’

- ‘Please let me wake up and find this has all been just a nightmare.’

- ‘Please take me and let my pet be alive again.’

- ‘I’d do anything if the pain would just go away and I did’nt have to feel like this.’

Typical thoughts when in the Bargaining/What If?/If Only Stage are:

- ‘What if I’d realised my pet was ill sooner?’

- ‘What if I’d seen a different vet?’

- ‘What if I had’nt let my pet out that day?’

- ‘If only I’d got to the vets sooner.’

- ‘If only I’d noticed my pet was missing earlier.’

- ‘If only I’d been at home.’

- ‘If only I’d got to my pet sooner.’

- ‘If only there had been a cure.’

Typical behaviours when in the Bargaining stage are:

- You may find yourself praying either literally or to yourself before you go to bed that you will wake up and everything that has happened has been a dream.

- You may find yourself resisting opening your eyes in the morning because for a while you can pray that everything is okay and your pet is well and with you again.

- You may find yourself daydreaming that your pet is still around and that you did things differently, so the outcome is better.

- You may find yourself running through events in your head and imagining the different outcomes you believe might have happened if you had done things differently.

- You may find yourself running through a fantasy of waking up and doing the things you would have normally done with your pet.

- You may find that you are unable to hold a conversation with anyone without discussing the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ of your pet’s death, even with complete strangers.

- You may feel overwhelmed by your thoughts or feel like they are on a continuous repeating loop that you can’t seem to escape.

- You may feel like you are becoming annoying to other people or even yourself for repeatedly discussing how things could have been different ‘if only’.

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