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My cousin lost her dog and isn't coping

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  • My cousin lost her dog and isn't coping

    Basically what the title says. My cousin is VERY attached to her dogs. She lost her mom at a young age, dad left when she was tiny and she's been through a lot. Her dogs have been the Only constant in her life since she moved away from here to PA.

    Her dog had surgery recently for something in his back, lots of recovery and pain. He was in the clear but developed pneumonia and she had to see some horrible things in the emergency vet.

    She seems to be unable to cope. I feel awful, but don't know how tO help. She is as upset as normal people would be about family dying. I totally understand, but she is not even able to function. Do you have any advice on how to help? I've been talking with her, but nothing seems to help.
    Last edited by AliCat518; May. 30, 2012, 05:13 PM.
    Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
    White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

    Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.

  • #2
    I'm so sorry.

    Grief goes when it goes. You can't rush it or change it. She just needs to take it one day at a time, or sometimes just deal with the next 15 minutes or even 5 minutes at a time.

    Make sure she is eating at least one meal a day, even if you eat it with her.

    Sit with her, no need for conversation unless she wants it.

    invite her to go for a car ride, or to the mall or the grocery store.

    if she says no, wait and ask again tomorrow or in a few days.

    Comment


    • #3
      Well she is normal to mourn the loss of her dog deeply. It will take time, and there's no getting around that.

      Paula
      He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by AliCat518 View Post
        She seems to be unable to cope. I feel awful, but don't know how tO help. She is as upset as normal people would be about family dying. I totally understand, but she is not even able to function. Do you have any advice on how to help? I've been talking with her, but nothing seems to help.
        Your poor cousin. She's lucky to have you. If it happened recently, it's normal for her to be badly hurt, even to the point of not functioning. Her dogs were her closest family, and she just lost one unexpectedly, in a violent, horrifying way involving seeing her pet in great pain and her own decision - to have him have surgery - end in his death. Her grief and guilt and shock must be enormous. If she seems suicidal or the intensity doesn't diminish over time, definitely get her professional help, but otherwise it's just something that takes time. The best thing to do is listen to her, even if she just repeats herself.

        Just to emphasize how normal it is to grieve a lost pet like family, the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious vet school and hospital provides many grief-related resources, including a Pet Loss Support Group at their Philly campus.

        http://www.vet.upenn.edu/SpecialtyCa...1/Default.aspx

        Their website discusses different types of grief, but one which really hits home is:

        Disenfranchised grief is experienced by an individual after a loss that is not socially acknowledged or supported. The loss does not “fit” into societal rules for mourning. The mourner is often left to cope with his/her emotions related to the loss with minimal social recognition of the loss or support. Mourners are expected to continue with normal routines (e.g., coming to work, not having or attending memorial service/rituals).

        Anyway. You might try googling pet loss support groups where she lives, or calling vet offices or shelters in that area to see if they know of any. There are cards you can send, online memorials/tributes, etc. Take her loss seriously; she is, and no matter what you privately think, the best way to help her recover is to treat her reaction with respect.

        Comment


        • #5
          Many hugs to her.

          I hope it's 'just' grief. Keep an eye out for signs it could be something a bit more severe that could require a doctor's intervention.
          I mean, I did not grief that terribly for my sister and yet a mild anti depressant was a heaven sent during that first year. It's not like she has to stay on it forever.
          I totally second paula's suggestion.

          (also, if you could gt her to move and 'work out' a little, the endorphins created by that would help a great deal!)
          Originally posted by BigMama1
          Facts don't have versions. If they do, they are opinions
          GNU Terry Prachett

          Comment


          • #6
            If she had to bear witness to him being in severe pain and having medical procedures done in front of her that were graphic and the result was his death, she may have PTSD. I would seriously push her to see a therapist asap. If her child had died a painful graphic death in front of her no one would be surprised, try to remember who the dog was to her. FWIW I mourned my heart dog for two years before I could think of him and not cry. Believe me, I did not enjoy it and sure would have liked it to be over ling before it was. Be easy on her and do not imply in any way that she is not "normal". This is her norm.
            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
            ---
            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

            Comment


            • #7
              When I lost my heart dog I was a mess too. It took almost a year before I stopped counting how many days he was gone. I really found a lot of comfort in www.petloss.com forum. The people were all in the same boat and were super compassionate. It took about four weeks before I was able to participate in their candle lighting ceremony they have every Monday but it helped even when I just watched it and didn't join in. God bless all the heart dogs!
              McDowell Racing Stables

              Home Away From Home

              Comment


              • #8
                I was the same way when I lost my first JR, Miss Snap Pea. I was totally non-functioning. Just ruined my life. It was a good 6 months before I could laugh again & I remember being guilty when I did.
                That's been over 10 years now & I still miss her daily.
                I went to a therapist who helped me. I recommend the same for your cousin. Of course one of the best things for her is for people to truly understand that the loss of her dog was the same as someone else losing a child.
                I was so MAD after losing Snappy because folks at work were like, "buck up, it's just a dog". I wanted to slap them. That made me grieve more as I felt totally alone.
                Please continue to let her know that not only you understand what she's going through but we all understand too. A support group that deals with pet loss would be very good for her as she can surround herself with people who also understand.
                Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!
                www.whitfieldfarm.shutterfly.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  I just lost my heart dog a few days ago that had been with me from 5 weeks old to almost 15 years old.

                  What is helping me and may help your cousin, is knowing his spirit is with me and our bond cannot be broken. Knowing that although he is physically gone, his soul is with me every moment.

                  I'm also seeking comfort in my other 3 dogs. I'm keeping them around me more when they'd be outside and letting one sleep in my old dogs bed at night. Maybe you could suggest those things to help her ease the pain?

                  People cope differently. My Mom lost her mini schnauzer 2 years ago and still cries and mourns her loss like it was yesterday.

                  Time.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I was that person a few years ago when I lost my dog unexpectedly after a somewhat routine surgery that was, for a lack of a better word, botched. I had had dogs and other animals all of my life and dealt with losing several of them, but this was different. I couldn't cope. He was only 4, he was more of a person than a dog, and having gone through the loss of people that are very close to me in the past, it was just as bad as a friend's death, if not worse. I was there as he was bleeding out internally after the surgery, vets not knowing why, and he was unable to recognize me and screeming in pain. So I can relate to your friend's experience. It still haunts me almost 2 years later, and I think about him every day. He left a great dane sized hole in my heart that I'm not sure will ever heal.

                    So. What can you do? If you're up to it, you can be what my best friend (close by) and my parents (long distance) were to me. You can check in on her/stay with her if she needs it. Make sure she eats something if she's not eating well (I lost 20 lbs in the month after his death, and that was with a friend trying to stuff food in my face). You didn't say how old she is, but if she is in school, try to help her with homework/communicating with professors/anything you can to prevent this time from permenently hurting her academically. If she works, make sure she is communicating with her boss, help her get back to work when she needs to, even if it means being at her place early in the morning to help her dress, eat, and get out the door.

                    You didn't mention how long it has been- if it's been more than a few weeks and you feel like she is still not coping, encourage her to see her doctor and discuss the possibility of anti-depressants like a few posters mentioned. I ended up going this route, and while I feel they the anti-depressants didn't make me numb or suddenly make me happy again or any huge change, I think they did help me become more functional, and deal with my grief in a way that wasn't so completely all-encompassing. Ultimately I was on them for about 6 months.

                    Another route that my doctor encouraged me to go was to talk to a therapist. I never did this (too stubborn), but I think it would have helped. Another option that other posters mentioned was to join a pet grief group... I've heard that these can really be helpful, but again, I didn't take advantage of this option.

                    I think the biggest and best thing for me that my friend did was understand... Even while I was drowing in my grief, I was painfully aware that most people don't respond to their pets' deaths that way, and I felt like many people in my life thought I was being dramatic and at a certain point, rediculous. After all, it was only a dog, right? Well my best friend was the only other person who was close to my boy, and the only other person in my life that he loved (he was VERY much a one person dog). She knew how special he was. She didn't think I was over-doing it, or pathetic, or needed to grow up. She understood, and was grieving for his loss right along with me. I think that was what made the biggest difference in the world to me. She got it. She validated my feelings, she felt it was as horrible as I did, so I wasn't crazy. And to this day, while I don't really bring him up much even though he is on my mind constantly, I can tell her about something that reminded me of him, or remember some good memory, and instead of brushing it off or pacifying me with some fake sympathy, she gets it. She still tells anyone around us when he comes up in conversation how he was the most special dog she's ever met. And she means it, even though she is a self-professed "crazy dog lady" and is obsessed with her 4 dogs. And that means the world to me.

                    So hugs for you and your friend.... and from someone who has most definitely been there, thank you for caring.
                    High Quality Tack Resale

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Unfortunately, she lives about 5 hours away. I've called her and texted just to tell her im here for her, and basically all she wants to do is sleep.

                      She is a teacher and in her last week of classes before she starts teaching summer school. Shes 30 years old. Has zero family up there, except for her sister who is a raging *itch who tells her she's too emotional.

                      I will give her the websites mentioned, as well as keep being there for her. I've let her know a few times that if this was my Charlie Brown that had died, I would be a freakin mess as well. I'm going to call her again this evening, and try to convince her to see a Dr.


                      Thanks for all of the understanding and suggestions.
                      Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
                      White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

                      Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        For me, the thing that helped most was knowing that my mourning was okay. Grief from losing a pet can be compounded by the "I shouldnt feel like this" feeling and other people judging that you shouldnt be so upset over "just a dog".

                        Please help her, but don't be too pushy about "fixing" her unless the falling apart is prolonged, profound and damaging to her health. She is entitled to her feelings and the time to sort through them. Support her but know that she has to work through it. It sounds like the dog was her family there.

                        If she is managing to finish the school year, I'd say that is a good sign that she is coping on some level. I know you feel helpless, but being able to voice your feelings and get empathy and understanding is huge!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hey OP. Why don't you start a post & give us your cousin's name & pets name (if you think she won't mind) & we'll all write some kind words for her. Maybe knowing that she's truly not alone & has the power of COTH animal lovers with her she'll feel better.
                          Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!
                          www.whitfieldfarm.shutterfly.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It had taken me years to get over my heart dog passing away. The first 4 months after he passed I did nothing but sleep. (and I had gotten a puppy to take my mind of the loss, and he was quite happy to 'nap' with me all day) New pup gave me a reason to get up, a reason to eat, a reason to live.....

                            after my summer of darkness (4 months in a deep depression) I did 6 months of weekly therapy at my university. My grades dropped and I was sent to counseling by Financial Aid. It helped so much.

                            I still see my heart dog in the corner of my eye, I can now talk about him without being reduced to a pile of mush; some days.

                            Losing a dog/cat/horse is very similar to losing a child. I know this because I watched my parents loose a child. Its a pain that no one can take way, a pain that runs deep, a hollow empty feeling that you swear will never be filled again.


                            jingles for your cousin.
                            www.facebook.com/doggonegoodgoodies
                            http://doggonebakedgoods.com/

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I am so sorry to hear what your cousin is going through. You've gotten lots of great advice so far. I would definitely try to hook her up with grief counseling. When I lost my mother I went through the same devastation your cousin is facing and going to therapy was the best thing I could have done. Just having an empathetic ear to listen to me and confirm what I was going through was normal was a huge help and got me on the path to recovery. You might also see if any of her local animal shelters offer grief counseling. Ours does and it has been a wonderful comfort for lots of people who want to know others understand their profound loss. She's lucky to have you.
                              If I wanted to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, I'd put shoes on my cats.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Having lost my best friend (Ger. Shep) this winter, I know how hard losing a pet can be. I have found over my many years that getting another dog ASAP is what helps distract me from my grief.

                                I got another sweet Ger. Shep. just a few days later from our local humane society. The new dog doesn't take the place of my old friend, but is a loving, sweet dog in her own way. And she is turning out to be a great dog.

                                Yes, I mistakingly call her by my old dog's name at times, and think about and miss him daily, but feel since he had been from a Ger. Shep. Rescue, he would have wanted another homeless dog to have someone to love it.

                                So my advice is for her to get another dog/pet to shower her love on--I know it helped to stop me from crying continuously.

                                (I also lost my 35 y.o. gelding that I had owned and loved for the past 34 years a couple months ago--yes, its very much ok to mourn those that we love)

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  If you can manage it, call her daily - you don't have to express sympathies for her loss, just call & chat & give her something to look forward to in her day, even if you just end up leaving messages, she'll still appreciate the caring concern.

                                  Send her bits of stuff in the mail, if you've got kids, have them do some cards/drawings.

                                  Try to set up a visit or invite her to come your way, or arrange to meet at the halfway point for lunch/shopping/hiking whatever appeals.

                                  It's good that she's teaching summer school - hope she gets a great bunch of kids, maybe she can do some outside classroom projects: if you can help her with class planning & ideas, do so.

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