Grieving over the loss of a pet

Published 11:58 am Monday, September 25, 2023

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Dear Aunty Pam,


I recently had to put down my 15-year-old dog who was my whole world. Even though there was no other option, I still felt like the executioner, and my heart is broken. I can’t bear coming home to an empty house when ‘Mikey’ used to be there to greet me every evening.

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If that’s not hard enough, I’m having to deal with well-meaning friends who keep sending me that stupid ‘Rainbow Bridge’ poem. I’m sorry, but there is no ‘Rainbow Bridge.’ My beloved dog passed away in my arms on a stainless steel table at the vet’s office and I had to leave him there to be cremated. Leaving him to drive home was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I sobbed like a child the whole time. It’s not helpful to me for people to keep sending me that poem.

A couple of people at work have suggested I get another dog as soon as possible to help me overcome my grief. Don’t they get that I need to grieve, that I want to grieve? I can’t imagine getting another dog, ever, at this point, and to run out and get another right after losing Mikey feels callous. How do I tell these people that they’re not helping, they’re just making me feel worse?


Mikey’s Mom


Dear Mom,


Oh, that poem. It drives Aunty Pam up the wall as well…I’d much rather think of all my beloved, late pets as keeping my seat warm until we meet again. Wherever that might be!

First of all, my very deepest condolences over the loss of your beloved Mikey. I’ve shared this before, but someone once said ‘Dogs give us the best years of our lives and the worst day.’ Boy, was anything more true ever spoken? 

I think you nailed it when you referred to your friends as ‘well-meaning.’ Because they really are.

Trying to comfort someone suffering real anguish is one of the most difficult things we can ever do—especially when there’s really nothing we can do, except for what’s needed most: simply holding a hand, giving a hug and saying ‘I’m so sorry.” 

At the end of the day, your heart is broken and you just don’t want to deal with poems and suggestions to replace Mikey. You just want to cry and be left alone in your grief. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with saying that. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I appreciate you trying to help but right now I don’t want any help. I just want to grieve Mikey on my own.”  ‘Nuff said.


Cheers, dear,

Aunty Pam