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Anticipatory Grief


Anticipatory grief - A set of emotions and responses that result when someone is anticipating the death of a loved one.


These emotions can be just as profound as the grief felt after the actual death. I believe, without question, the inner struggle over the end-of-life decision regarding your pet is the most heart shattering and gruelling situation you will find yourself in with respect to the role of pet-parent. You will confront yourself with a barrage of difficult questions, what if's, why, how, what, where and when. You will find yourself overwhelmed and distraught, thinking and hoping that someone else can make the decision or perhaps you are being too proactive and reactive to your pet’s health condition. It is totally normal to hold onto a small glimmer of hope, a sign that your pet is going to be okay after all.


I have often been asked, “How will I know it is the right time?” My response is the following: “You know your pet best and remember, you are in a stressful situation”. Do your best to be honest with yourself while evaluating the quality of your pet’s life now and in the days to come. Your veterinarian is a good source for an unbiased medical status and can explain not only prognosis but also what to watch for and expect. Our own emotions and desperate hope can cloud our judgement, when bad days begin to out number good days a conversation with our pets medical providers should happen, if it hasn’t already. There are many Quality of Life Scales available to assist pet parents during this difficult time. Some of the questions you can ask yourself and track daily are: have your pets eating and or drinking habits significantly changed? Have they stopped wanting their favourite treats, has play or engagement become significantly less frequent? Does your pet prefer to be alone more often rather than with family or seems to be sleeping more than usual? Is your pet in continuous discomfort and/or pain that is increasingly unmanageable even with medication? It is normal and understandable to not want to let go, but again, try your best to be honest with your answers. My honest answer to you is there are no easy yes or no answers.


If there are several family members, all of who are old enough to be part of the decision, have a family meeting. The decision should be a family affair. Not everyone may agree, not everyone may be as ready to say good-bye, but every voice should be heard and respected. Your pet is a “family” pet. If you are on your own, obviously the decision becomes yours alone to make. No one else should make that decision for you, you have to live with the decision and need to be as much at peace with it as possible. Remember, the decision is made in the best interest of your pet and no one else.


As I stated above, I believe, without question, the inner struggle over the end-of-life decision regarding your pet is the most heart shattering and gruelling situation you will find yourself in with respect to the role of pet-parent. You do not have to go it alone; I will accompany you on this most difficult journey, as well as the aftermath. I am available for online appointments conducted with your health and privacy in mind. Contact me any time: petlosscounsellingtoronto@gmail.com


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