Practical - Index >
Companion Animals & Urban Wildlife >
Pet Loss Index
Dealing with the Guilt
Guilt. It's a word that can
invoke in us the deepest, most terrible feelings of loss, horror, anger, and
helplessness. Why did I do what I did? Why couldn't I have done
more? Did I kill my beloved pet? Did I not do enough? Did I do
too much? Did I put him/her down too soon? Did I wait too long?
If only I had closed the gate. If only I had noticed sooner.
If only I had waited longer. If only I had more money. If only
I had rushed to the vet sooner. If only I had known more at the time.
If only I had listened to my gut feelings. If only I had gone to a
And we beat ourselves up for all these questions and
"if-onlys". Why do we do this? Because we loved our pets. Because we
wish we could have done more, or wish we had not done what we did.
cannot bring them back. We cannot change what we did or did not
What we can do is stop hurting ourselves over the guilt. Each
of us, in our own way, did what we thought was right at the time, using what we
knew and felt. Each of us tried to do the best we could, and did it with
the intention of love.
We are human beings, with frailties and faults.
We don't know everything. We make mistakes. But we make them
with the best of intentions.
To hurt ourselves with the terrible
additional pain of guilt is to do disservice to the love we felt for our pets.
With very, very few exceptions, we did the best we knew to do at the time. Even
if we feel that we didn't do what we should have, or did what we should not
have, we have learned, and everyone will benefit from that knowledge
Our beloved pets are gone, and out of pain. We still torture
ourselves with the pain of guilt and doubt. It's human to do that, too, but are
we being fair to ourselves?
We loved, deeply, and that says that we have
a deep capacity for love that many do not. We are basically good people. Should
we not recognize that goodness, instead of inflicting pain on ourselves for what
we could, or should, or should not have done?
We took in a beloved
creature, and gave him or her everything we could. We petted, we walked, we fed,
we changed litter boxes, we played, we stroked, we sat sleepless on difficult
nights. We cared, and did everything we knew to do at the time. And we looked in
their eyes, and knew they understood that we loved them, and knew that they
If we didn't know enough, or made an innocent mistake, do we
believe that they did not understand, and love and forgive us in spite of it? I
believe they did, and that they do.
We need to forgive ourselves. If we
can, we can increase our knowledge, reach out to help others, and use our pain
to make things better for our pets, for others' pets, and for those animals out
there who are alone and lost. We can make a difference. But only if we quit
hating ourselves, blaming ourselves, for being human.
Let the guilt go.
Know that your furbabies don't blame you; they understand, because they know
your heart. Let yourself forgive yourself, and allow all the love you have to be
there for another. There are so many who need it.
Learn, and then teach.
Keep learning, and don't stop. Every pebble of knowledge and caring you send out
will ripple throughout the world, and keep growing. And perhaps in time, every
animal will be loved, and well-cared for, and there will be a great golden age
for the animals, and for those of us who love them.