Fifth in a series of “pet loss and grief told from personal experience”
The loss of a pet brings a profound change to our life and our self, no matter what we do or who we are, but sometimes the loss and how we deal with it opens a door inspires us to make a change in our lifestyle or job, or to follow through with a life dream.
The change may not be something related to the pet who was lost or to animals in general, it may just be that the need to change our surroundings in response to grief spurs us to keep going with that change and before we know it we’ve come up with an entirely new way of thinking or living.
And then the change may be all about the pet who was lost, and we may also have the product of an immense creative effort inspired by that pet.
So it was for Ingrid King, author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons of a Feline Master Teacher. From her loss of Buckley, a joyful and affectionate tortoiseshell cat who was diagnosed with heart disease after only two years, came an entire book, written immediately after Buckley’s passing.
I met Ingrid King at the Cat Writer’s Association annual conference in November 2009 and heard her speak about her book. Since then it has received glowing reviews in the pet and pet loss industries.
Most of us have had more than one pet, and while we love them all we could probably each say that one of them was special in some way, an angel come to teach us a lesson, leaving us enriched in a way no other relationship ever could.
For Ingrid, Buckley was that angel who taught Ingrid how to live a joyful life even as Buckley slowly yielded to her heart disease. That relationship was powerful enough for Ingrid to write the book she had always intended to write, with Buckley as its subject.
Here, Ingrid tells how her career wandered around, forming into a helping, healing profession until Buckley joined, then left her life. She began writing in the midst of her grief, with a goal of having the book available to others by the first anniversary of Buckley’s passing, like a promise kept.
By: Ingrid King
I have been an avid reader all my life. My parents encouraged me to read at an early age. I remember weekly trips to the library with my mother – I would be allowed to pick out three or four books each week, and they never seemed to last for the entire week. Even back then, I remember thinking how cool it would be to write my own book. As a teenager, I kept journals, and there was even an attempt at fiction, or rather, romantic fiction, about a soccer player I had a crush on. Thankfully, that creation disappeared somewhere along the way during one of my moves either from my parents’ house to college, or to my first home – I can only imagine how reading it now would make me cringe in embarrassment.
Fourth in a series of “pet loss and grief told from personal experience”
I remember in the last days of each of my cats’ lives looking at people who I knew had lost pets and thinking, “Oh, they’ve crossed over, and they survived …”, so of course I could, too, though I knew it would not be without pain.
Now you and your animal companion have both crossed over, one to the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, and one to a sort of purgatory of pain and sorrow. No matter how you may have prepared yourself, nothing spares you in those last hours of life and the first few hours after your companion’s death. Get yourself in a comfortable, protected place and just let yourself feel what you feel and do what you need to for a few hours at least. Understand and be gentle with yourself.
And it can be especially difficult if there was an accident, a mistake, or if you have any regrets. You will resolve those in time.
You may feel the need to avoid things that remind you of your pet, a certain room in the house, your backyard, even a favorite activity suddenly brings you heartbreak.
For me, it was the first meal given to the rest of the household after the loss, a few of them confused but most of them happy for the routine, me crying so hard I could barely see, thinking that just the last meal, a few hours ago, they were here. It was always difficult to walk in the door after being away as well, especially when I worked a day job.
Take your grief to a safe place
Grieving the death of your pet is no longer something to hide, though you’ll still find people who snicker or get impatient and make rude or painful remarks. No matter what others may say, loss is loss and must be grieved in your own way or it leaves a scar.
Take some time each day to sit quietly and remember your pet, play music that soothes you or go somewhere that you find relaxing. Make this your special time with your pet’s memory, and start trying to remember the happy memories. Even if your pet only lived a short time, there are always more happy memories than sad.