Hi, again! Picking up right where we left off yesterday, Toni, why don't you tell us more about pet grief.
Thanks, Sarah. It’s really about kids and adults managing the loss of the loved one. It’s not about what you lost... it’s about your ability to manage that loss. We don't have to get over it... but we do have to manage it... or get through it, if you want to think of it that way.
It is not just an animal! It is a devastating loss that often turns into anxiety disorders or depression. And the fingers of those afflictions reach into our work, church, and personal lives, and can choke the joy right out of us. Some folks mean well, but they just don't understand how what might be a minor loss to them is actually complicated grief for someone else. The good news is Jesus is our healer!
Toni, is this personal for you?
Yes. Several years ago (right before the cancelled wedding event) I lost the dog I loved more deeply than I can even tell you. Her name was Guido (yes, that’s right!). I took her out of a shelter in Terre Haute, Indiana when I was a TV anchor. She was with me 13 years. Not having family and being single, she was my all! When I lost her the bottom fell out of my life and I experienced depression and worse... the inability to get help. There was minimal support and that was about it! I was suffering so much. I ended up with a grief counselor who worked with women who lost spouses. She helped me a lot, but it was a Christian counselor who saved my life. I knew that God was calling me to help others with this issue, and any other life issue, using His Word.
Don't you offer group therapy on pet loss?
Yes, on a needs basis. It's called "Guido’s Group.”
There's something really powerful and restorative inside of healthy groups. I see this in our life group. We're not a "therapy" group... but we're there for each other in all kinds of ways and it can be tremendously supportive.
But, back to the pets.... Toni, can you compare the grief process for animals to how we feel when we lose a human intimate? Do we go through the same kind of mourning process? Is it more or less? Different in any way?
It is very similar because loss is loss, and love is love. Love comes from God, its author. When we lose the object of our love it hurts! It’s OK to hurt.... we’re supposed to. But what is not healthy is when we can’t get past it to “do life” again. The loss leaves a big crater in our hearts that really only God can fill.
Grief unfolds in stages, and no one goes through them the same way or in the same progression. It takes a skilled counselor to walk alongside the person, to comfort as well as professionally assist. I once knew someone who didn’t cry at a funeral for a family member. Turns out he was an Army veteran who feels very, very deeply, but became a master at concealing those feelings. His grief ... his healing process... would be very different, from say, mine. I cry very loudly! Wail, actually…
Best advice you can give someone who has recently lost a pet...
Next Up: Toni's final thoughts on surviving pet loss and more. For information about Toni's ministry, click here: http://www.tonitrueblood.com.