‘Denial’ is the first of the stages of grief and a step you may go through on your way to pet grief recovery.
Firstly let me explain that being in the ‘Denial’ stage does not mean that you literally do not know that you have suffered the loss of a loved pet.
It is more like a feeling of numbness and shock that creates a protective barrier between you and the harshness of reality.
I like to think of it as a blanket that keeps us warm and protects us from the cold until the sun comes out again and we are able to make our way to pet grief recovery.
Denial is really nature's way of protecting us from having to face something terrible in it’s entirety which may overwhelm us at a time when we feel least able to cope.
Instead our brains instinctively try to protect us by pretending nothing has happened and that everything is okay still.
Gradually we become more and more aware of the reality of the situation and the numbness and shock fade and as this happens we become more able to cope with things.
Of course we know that what has happened has happened, we are fully aware that our pet has passed away, but we are protected from the full force and shock of grief just for a while to allow us some time to adjust to our loss.
It is only natural that if you have developed a routine around your pet , that when they are suddenly no longer there your brain also takes time to adjust to this.
Just as after a relationship break up you may lay two places at the table or make two cups of tea instead of one, so you may find yourself momentarily confused and carrying out activities you may have shared with your pet.
Often our pets are taken from us in a moment so it should be no surprise that we need to give ourselves time to adjust to this. A moment ago our pet was still with us and now suddenly we feel an emptiness where they once were.
It takes time to get used to their absence and everyone’s experience of pet loss and pet grief recovery is unique to them so do not feel as though you must complete pet grief recovery in any set order or set time.
Many people find they simply do not know what to do with themselves as everything they think of involved their pet in some way or another.
If you have been caring for a sick and or elderly pet for some time you may suddenly feel lost and without a purpose.
This is natural and in time and as you work through the stages of grief and pet grief recovery you will find yourself becoming more and more accepting of this feeling.
Whilst it is not really possible to avoid the shock and numbness that follow the loss of a loved pet, I believe that by knowing more about what to expect at each stage of pet grief and pet grief recovery, we can make our road to pet grief recovery a little easier to travel.
Typical thoughts when in the Denial stage are:
- ‘This cant be happening to me.’
- ‘My pet can’t have died, he just can’t have.’
- ‘There must be some mistake. Are you sure it’s my pet’
- ‘This feels like a dream, like a nightmare – I just can’t believe it’
Typical behaviours when in the Denial stage are:
- Imagining your pet is somewhere in the house, just out of sight and that they will come bounding into the room at any moment.
- If the pet was at the Veterinarians when it died, you may convince yourself that they are still there being treated and getting better.
- You may still hold on to the hope that a mistake has been made and it isn’t your pet who has died.
- You may wake up in the morning and keep your eyes closed and imagine your pet is still with you just for a moment before you have to open your eyes and face the reality of your loss.
- If you are at work you may start to imagine you will return home and be greeted by your pet’s happy faces and kisses once again.
- If you spent time away from your pet throughout the day, shopping for example, you may find it hard to believe they aren't still at home and won’t be there when you return.
- Sometimes you may be at home and feel like you actually see your pet out of the corner of your eyes.
- If you have other pets you may find yourself mistaking them for the pet you have lost or calling them by the other pet’s name.
- You may find ourselves continuing to buy food for your pet and continuing to dish up their dinner at their dinnertime both through habit and because you don’t want them to be gone and want them to be there to eat it still.
- If you are leaving the house you may instinctively reach for your pet’s lead and whilst out may find yourself looking behind or ahead of you for your pet.
- If people ask about your pet you may find yourself not telling them that your pet has died and continuing to talk about them as though they were still alive. This can compound grief as people may then avoid discussing your pet not understanding why you are acting the way you are and not knowing how to broach the subject. This in turn can add to your feelings of isolation.
- Many people find themselves carrying on as normal and as though nothing has happened. If they returned home throughout the day to check up on their pet, they continue to do so, they continue all the routines they carried out for their pet, just as they did before.
You may find that you experience feelings of 'Denial' long before the loss of a loved pet, this is natural and is referred to as Anticipatory Grief and is often experienced by people who have spent time caring for a sick and or elderly pet.
Denial is just one step on your road to pet grief recovery, on the following page I shall tell you about the next of the Stages of Grief, 'Anger'.
Click here to go the next page on The Stages of Pet Grief - 'Anger'
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