As a grown man, I feel a little embarrassed to be writing in about this: I just lost my “best friend” – my 15 year-old dog Jasper. He had a terminal and debilitating illness and I recently had to have him put to sleep. I know that he was “just a dog” but I feel devastated and am having trouble sleeping, getting up in the morning and getting myself to work. Is this normal?
First of all I’m so sorry for the loss of Jasper. Your response to his passing away is completely normal. Dogs are truly “man’s best friend”. They’re always happy to see us and never criticize or pass judgment on us. They provide unconditional love and companionship, and ask for little in return. What’s there not to love?
It’s unfortunate that many people don’t realize that a pet is a family member; one who provides us with a sense of stability and home. When a human family member passes away others understand our devastation. When it comes to pets, however, we’re expected to just get over it. Often we’re given well-intentioned but unhelpful advice, such as “you can always get another dog”, or “it could be so much worse”.
You’ll never replace Jasper but here are some ways to cope:
At this painful time it’s important to connect with friends and family who do understand the pain you’re experiencing.
Create any kind of ritual that lets you honor the wonderful companion you’ve just lost. Try not to isolate; schedule activities and make plans with friends.
Allow yourself time to grieve but put “brackets” around it. In other words give yourself a little time each day to look at photos and to feel, think and journal about your memories of Jasper. Daily, set aside 15 minutes to ½ hour for this process, and when the time is up, get about your day. In so doing you’ll allow your grief without letting it overtake your life.
Most importantly, please know that you’re experiencing a healing process; a normal response to the loss of a cherished friend.