The next of the stages of pet grief is the ‘Acceptance’ stage.
Acceptance does not mean you are happy with the situation or that you have ‘got over it’ as some thoughtless people may imply, but it does mean that you will start to view your pet’s death in a different light.
Charlie and Boo
Acceptance means accepting the reality that your pet is gone and recognising that being without them is now your permanent reality.
Up until this point all your energy may have gone into dealing with your pet grief, but now you will find that you are able to once again invest your energy into life.
The arrival of the acceptance stage may not always be obvious. You may simply find you start to enjoy more good days than bad.
You may find that the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ that seemed to fill your days are suddenly no longer there as you start to put your pet loss into perspective and view it more logically.
You may find yourself looking forward rather than backward. You may find your anger is gone and you now become aware of common sense reasons for your loss even if you never really fully understand those reasons.
You should remember that the stages of pet grief are not always straightforward and the circumstances of your loss will affect how you experience pet grief. If your loss is sudden and unexpected it may take you longer to reach Acceptance, than if you were able to prepare for your loss.
You shouldn't put expectations on yourself to feel better by any set time and neither should you feel guilty if you find that you do not experience every stage. Each person’s grief is unique and noone can tell you exactly how you will feel or for how long.
Many people feel guilty that they appear to feel better about their pet’s death or that they may be living again and regain their enjoyment in life. They see it as a betrayal of their pet to enjoy life when their pet cannot.
But after you have given pet grief it’s time you will move on and there is no sense in holding on to grief out of a mistaken sense of loyalty. Would your pet want you to be unhappy for the rest of your life because they can no longer be with you?
The truth is in a strange way the healing power of grief brings us closer to the pet we have lost. We are able to remember them fondly again without the pain of grief.
As C S Lewis said on the death of his wife;
"You can't see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears."
Typical thoughts when in the Acceptance stage are:
- ‘I can see now that it was no one’s fault that my pet died and I did everything I could.’
- ‘I remember that time when my pet made me laugh doing ……’
- ‘I understand now that it was just my pet’s time to go.’
Typical behaviours when in the Acceptance stage are:
- Remembering your pet with a smile even if there is still a tear in your eye.
- Remembering the good and the bad times you had with your pet, as opposed to just the bad times which we tend to focus on in grief.
- Being able to talk about your pet without feeling the need to only talk about their death or the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’.
- Being able to look at pictures of your pet without feeling as though the pain is too much to bear.
- Being able to sort through your pets toys and remember them playing with them with a smile.
- Finding yourself planning ahead. This doesn’t necessarily have to centre around your pet, it could just be planning ahead to have dinner with friends for example.
- If your pet was the main focus of your life and you had much of your activities based around them, you will find yourself reorganising your time and finding alternative activities.
- You may find yourself ‘letting go’ of your grief. This does not mean forgetting about your pet but reinvesting your energy into living rather than grieving.
- If you previously felt that life had lost it’s purpose, you will feel a new sense of purpose.
- You may find yourself feeling that you now want to celebrate your pet’s life and have photographs of them around.