Death and Guilt

March 9, 2010 – Joanne writes that she gave her cat the wrong medication for an illness  – the medicine was improperly prepared, and she sensed something was wrong – and her cat Debbie died. “You talk about guilt, there is nothing in this world that will  ever make me feel better about giving that medication to my cat. I should have trusted my gut and asked to speak to the pharmacist.”

Guilt is an integral part of the new animal grieving we are seeing in America. People feel guilty about letting their animals go.

It’s difficult to talk anybody out of guilt – I know this from personal experience. But I am also learning about letting go. The human animal bond is not about loss, pain, grief and guilt. It is about service, love, companionship, challenge, patience laughter. Things will happen. Dogs and cats get sick, they run in front of cars, they die, as we all will.

I do not think their wish for us, if they could speak or talk, would be for us to carry grieving, pain loss and guilt in our hearts for years. I think they would wish for us to let go, and let their spirits live on by our recognition that the impact a dog or cat has on our life does not die, but lives on within us.

I am sad when a pet dies, but I know they live on in me, in the things I do, the periods of my life that they mark, and the things they teach me and lead me to. I wish for Joanne that she would give herself permission to acknowledge that she did her best, she loved her cat, and if she can’t feel better about the medication, perhaps she can move beyond that pain and put this energy into the love of another animal. Lord knows there are plenty who need it.