Four Stages of Grief


Cuddle Monster
Purred: Tue May 8, '07 1:05pm PST 
Anyone that loses a loved one, including their pet, will eventually go through the four stages of grief. Denial, Awareness, Sadness and Acceptance. Most of us love our pets as we love any family member. So it is normal for us to grieve in the same way we would grief for any family member. Here is an explanation of the four stages of grief. (Remember - everyone is unique and will experience grief in different ways)

Denial - (Also known as the "shock" or "disbelief"), this initial phase, which may last from a mere few seconds up to 6 weeks, is marked by numbness, disbelief, and often, alienation from others. The loss may be intellectualized and dealt with on a "rational" level, as opposed to a "feeling" level. This is the stage many people are in at the time of a funeral or service.

Awareness - (Also known as the "anger" stage), is an emotional and suffering phase that resides in the heart. At the same time that the chemicals (eg, adrenaline) released in response to the stress of our pet's death are beginning to decrease, and the support of friends is lessening, the impact of our pet's loss is beginning to be truly realized: the lonely pet bed, no pet waiting at the door when you return from work . The onset of this stage occurs 2-4 weeks after death, and the pain we experience continues to increase until it peaks about 3-4 months after the death. Typically, this is the longest phase. Strong emotions, such as anger, fear, and guilt, may be experienced.
Individuals may experience uncontrolled bouts of weeping.

The full recognition of the implications of our loss can take years.

Sadness or Depression - We desperately want everything to be the same as it was before the loss. This unachievable desire, simultaneously so natural and so understandable, may elicit depression at around 6 months.

Acceptance/Reconciliation and Recovery: The final stage resides in the gut. For most of us, it is several months before we overcome the most severe emotional stress, and it takes at least a year to work through the grieving process. We must weather the "first" everything (eg, birthdays, holidays, date of our pet's death) without our animal who has died.
As time passes, and as we allow ourselves to work through our grief, we begin to reconcile the loss and to engage in rebuilding our lives. The swings of emotion slow, and a scar is formed, lessening the pain. Our focus shifts from the death, and life begins anew. This is about the time we may even consider looking at pets at pet stores or shelters. Reaching this stage does not mean we will never grieve again but that the grieving feelings no longer disrupt our lives or block our capacity for growth, discovery, and joy.

A caution, however. After a significant loss, we are changed forever; thus, the "new normal" is not like the "old normal." It has been suggested that we should attempt to reach an accommodation with our loss, rather than an "acceptance" or an effort to "recover."

Please fee free to comment and share your thoughts and feelings.

Edited by author Mon May 21, '07 6:11pm PST


Little Friend, I- miss you
Purred: Tue Jan 1, '08 4:18pm PST 
Thank you, Sissy. I lost my beautiful, sweet Bel Prince on Saturday, December 29, 2007. This is the best explanation of grief I have read. I especially appreciate the support by your acknowledgement of how long the different stages can last. I have seen so many bad things and lost so many cats over the last five years and most people (who are not cat people) just can't seem to understand the effects. Its amazing how many people count cats as objects.