Posts Tagged ‘grief’

The Tale Of A Dead Guinea Pig

A recent article by Christy Oglesby of CNN tells of a mother who kept the death of her son’s guinea pig a secret to protect him from the grief while he was studying for exams.

When Christy discovered the stiff corpse of Checkers the guinea pig she found herself in the middle of a moral dilemma that almost turned into an episode of Laurel and Hardy.

Knowing full well that her son Drew would be devastated by the loss of the pet he “loved like a daughter,”  and knowing that he was facing five tests within the next two days, she decided to cover up the death for a couple of days.

The crafty cover-up plot was not without its difficulties. But with a lot of creative distractions and fast talking she managed to maintain the secret for two days until the tests were behind her son.

Of course the inevitable grief still came once the sad news was broken.  But Drew was able to express his grief without affecting his scholastic endeavours. And the reason for the delay in breaking the news to him was fully explained.

Some people would, and did, say that Christy crossed a line.  Are third grade tests more important that a young boys emotional health?  Of course then there is the other camp who agree, that dead guinea pig is a dead guinea pig and a couple of days delay in breaking the news won’t make any difference.

What do you think?  Did the mother act responsibly or did she inhibit her son’s social development?
Smooth Coat Guinea Pig

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The full impact of pet loss is often not appreciated.

Too long people have had to grieve the loss of their pet in silence – keeping a stiff upper lip.

The reality is that often people are affected more greatly by the loss of their pet than they are when losing a parent.

There are a number of reasons that the grief for a pet can be more acute than for a person. Pets for example, are able to love unconditionally. They place few demands on the relationship (food and companionship usually the extent of their demands).

It is often therefore easier to develop a bond with a pet that is greater than that which we experience with other humans in our lives.

Unfortunately the support that we receive in times of pet loss often does not reflect the significance of this bond. Reactions range from “it was just an animal” to “its no big deal – get another one.”

We cannot go to our boss and ask for time off work to grieve without being subjected to humiliation. It is not normal for people to send flowers, or cards. We do not hold public funerals.

This general response of ignoring the tragedy by society at large only increases the sense of loss and helplessness that a pet owner faces.

The death of a pet can also trigger other grief that compounds the feeling of loss. For example it may die in a manner similar to that of a parent, or it may have been the favorite pet of a recently deceased spouse. These kinds of memories and emotions trigger overwhelming responses that an outsider will not understand or appreciate.

Two groups often affected the most are children and elderly.

To a child a pet is often a surrogate parent – left with much of the baby sitting duties by two busy parents. They become a companion that is often with them they have their greatest personal triumphs. Losing the pet they have spent much of their short lives with is often their first experience with death and is often misunderstood.

Elderly, like children, often find that most of their time is spent with a pet. Many times caring for their pet will become their sole purpose for living. The pet is also often the only link to their past, especially if they have lost their spouse and have moved into a care facility.
soft hearted pillow

Dealing with the loss of a pet is different for everyone.

Some of the common ways to assist a family member or friend to cope with their loved pet include: recognizing the significance of the pet in their lives; being open to talking about their pet if that is what they want; creating a memorial that will help give closure and an ability to express the grief they feel, as well creating something that will allow their memories to live on.

One thing that you must not do, especially with children is lie. Do not say the animal is sleeping or has gone away. This will often create a fear in a child that sleep is permanent or that when a family member goes away they may not come back.

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She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove;
A maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love.

A violet by a mossy stone
Half-hidden from the eye;

Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;

But she is in her grave, and oh
The difference to me!

William Wordsworth

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Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye (1904-2004)

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There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth. It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colours. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass.

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place. There is always food and water and warm spring weather. All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigour; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent; her eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.

Author Unknown

Pet Memorials
Creating eternal memories.

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Kim Marie Labak
Information Specialist
University of Illinois
College of Veterinary Medicine

“A pet can be a child’s best friend,” says Cheryl Weber, a client counselor specialist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. The death of a pet can be a sad and confusing time for children as well as a difficult time for parents. Often parents are dealing with their own grief and aren’t sure how to talk to their children about the death of the pet, whether it’s a hamster, turtle, cat, dog, or horse.

Weber says, “The cardinal rule for talking to children about the death of a pet is: be honest.” She says it’s important to let children say goodbye and to express their grief.

When a pet dies, some parents have the impulse to lie to protect their children from grief. They may tell the child that the pet was given away, lost, or went to a farm to live happily ever after. “Adults may lie because they want to protect their child from sadness and hurt,” explains Weber, a licensed social worker. “It breaks your heart to see a child sob, but it’s normal and healthy for children to grieve. When they love a pet and it dies, they need to know it’s okay to cry.”

Weber suggests sticking to the basic, simple truth, using language the child can understand. If you can foresee a death or euthanasia, you can prepare by talking to the children beforehand, explaining, “Fluffy is very sick and can’t get better.” “When she dies, her heart will stop and she cannot walk or play or eat or purr any more.”

Avoid the euphemism “put to sleep” because it can cause a child to be afraid of going to sleep at night. It’s better to say “Because Fluffy can’t get better, we’re going to help her die.”

Statements like these will probably lead to a barrage of challenging questions such as “Why?” and “Where is she going?” Weber suggests that adults try to answer these questions and help children learn that death is a natural part of life. Many pets have short life spans. They get ill, body parts wear out, they get into accidents, and sometimes they can’t be saved. Plus, parents have the opportunity to discuss their spiritual beliefs with their children.

Other suggestions from Weber include:

ᄋ Let children say goodbye to the pet before euthanasia or burial. A teenager away at college may want to know what’s going on.

ᄋ Let older children or teens be present for the euthanasia, if they want to be, and if they are carefully prepared for what will happen.

ᄋ Some clinics make the family a “clay paw” keepsake (see http://www.claypaws.com). A horse owner may want to keep a clipping of hair from the mane or tail.

ᄋ Let children express their feelings. Encourage a child to draw a picture or write a story about the pet. Making a scrapbook or memory book may help an older child.

ᄋ Let children help in planning a memorial, whether you have ashes, a burial, or a simple eulogy in the living room.

ᄋ Read books together, such as The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, where a mother encourages her son to think of 10 good things about his cat after the cat dies.

ᄋ Parents can learn more about pet loss from resources such as Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping, by Marty Tousley.

ᄋ Don’t rush into getting a new pet.

For more information on talking to children about pet loss, contact your local veterinarian or visit the Companion Animal Related Emotions (CARE) Helpline Web site at http://www.cvm.uiuc.edu/CARE/.

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