On March 12, 2021, at almost noon, I said goodbye to Cali, my beautiful, almost 17-year-old Cairn Terrier. She was my
“heart” dog. She gave me more than I could have possibly given her. It was one of the worst days of my life. I felt as if my heart had been ripped from my body.
In most societies, we don’t talk about death. In fact, in some cultures, you aren’t “allowed” to be sad about the loss of a loved one. They believe it will stop the deceased from traveling to a happy afterlife. Can you imagine having to hold in all your feelings of heartbreak? That’s a heavy burden.
The Egyptians believed you died twice. Simply put, the first time is when you take your final breath and your spirit leaves your body. The second death occurs the last time someone says your name. They believed your spirit lived on as long as people kept remembering you. I especially like to think that Cali’s spirit lives on.
In the United States, it is commonly understood that there are four stages of grief everyone navigates through:
- Denial – difficulty accepting our pet is gone
- Anger – directed at the illness that caused the death, the vet who “didn’t” do enough, the person who was “negligent”
- Guilt – that we didn’t do enough and that’s why our pet died
- Depression – overwhelming sad feelings that disrupt much of our day-to-day life due to low-level energy, little interest in normal activities, and extreme sadness.
These four stages of grief are not linear. In fact, some people may only experience some of the stages or go through them in a different order. These emotions will creep up on us… often when we least expect it. It’s normal and all part of the process of healing because there really isn’t a definitive end to grief. Instead, we learn to live with our loss.
Through Cali, I learned that having the capacity to love deeply allowed me to grieve deeply. And having just lost both my mother and father within the last three years, I discovered that grief is experienced differently each time. Grief is truly a personal journey.
Most people see grief as ugly and scary. That’s why, especially in the early stages, it is so important to get support. And yes, even for a beloved pet. Grief is grief. I know someone who went to bed for three months after their dog was struck by a car and killed. Whether it’s from a family member, friend, religious/spiritual advisor, or bereavement group, it’s critical not to go through this trauma alone.
It’s also important to note that when someone loses a pet, people will often treat what you’re going through as “disenfranchised grief” or “discounted grief.” This implies that your sorrow over the loss of a beloved pet isn’t as valuable as grieving a person. People may say things such as the following:
- It was only a dog
- You can get another one
- It lived a long life
- You gave it so much
None of those comments ever help. So, be sure to connect with people who understand what you are going through and reach out for support. This will help you to navigate your loss, perhaps even with a bit of grace, allowing you to comfort others when it is their turn to grieve.
Back to the Egyptians and their philosophy of death, remember your dog with love. When you’re ready, share your memories, look at your photos and tell the many stories your heart holds. Your beloved, long-time 4-legged best friend’s spirit will remain with you forever.
You are not alone.
International Speaker | Best-Selling Author |
Breakthrough Success Expert | Leading Mindset Expert | Award-Winning Strategist | Private Coaching
The Forever Cali Project
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