The 5 Stages Of Grief You Experience When You Lose A Pet

Isaiah & Taylor Photography

Five years have come and gone since I lost my four-legged best friend.

Graham, a Rottweiler and German shepherd mix, was a rescue from Baypath Humane Society of Hopkinton. He was my companion all throughout middle school and high school. Nighttime playtime, outdoor romps in the snow and tummy rubs were all part of a day well done.

Reaching the five-year anniversary of his passing has naturally brought some emotions to the surface, as if everything just happened yesterday.

These are the five stages of grief you experience when you lose a pet:

1. Grief

I remember that phone call, the one that left me in tears. My heart filled with anger at the fact I never had the chance to say goodbye.

I got home from work at 3 pm when I received a phone call from my father. Graham had passed that morning.

My mood instantly changed from happy to distraught in a matter of moments. All I could do was scream and sob into my pillow.

My throat hurt, but I didn't care. I just wanted Graham back. Spanky, a dachshund and corgi mix who was also a rescue from Baypath, was now my only companion. I squeezed her tight. She was never a touchy-feely type of dog, but she withstood my squeezing.

2. Disbelief

The next day, I was in utter disbelief. I couldn't believe Graham was here yesterday, but gone today.

It took me by surprise. I knew he was older and had lost a considerable amount of energy as he aged, but I did not think he was at death's door.

Later on, I found out from my father there had been a lot going on with Graham that I did not know. He was trying to protect me, and I understand that now. I was younger, and he didn't want to upset me.

Graham had cancer, and the options were not favorable, given his age. Chemotherapy would wear him out, and there was a good chance that he would not survive surgery.

3. Reminiscing

When the shock wore off, I began reminiscing about the good times Graham and I had together. My father's condo had a fence in the backyard where we would run around in circles. He would chase me, and other times, I would chase him.

Once indoors, I would give him a tummy rub, and he would always whine if I stopped. It became our own little game. I would place my hand on and off his tummy and wait for him to playfully beg for more.

Hearing Graham whine, my father would inquire, "Lauren, what are you doing?" I would innocently respond, "Nothing." Only Graham and I knew the truth. It it these moments that I miss and cherish the most.

4. Acknowledgement

It's tough losing a loved one. In my eyes, losing a pet is just like losing a family member. They are involved in every part of your life.

I remember being at work, putting dishes away as they came out of the washing machine and having my hat positioned low to cover my eyes so I could silently cry in the background. Each tear represented an acknowledgment of truth.

Graham was no longer here. He passed on.

5. Acceptance

I have to thank my nursing pal for this one. She said to me one day, "Have you ever heard of the Rainbow Bridge Poem?" She then gestured to a poem on the wall.

It was one of the hardest poems I'd ever read. But who said working through grief was easy? Written by an anonymous author, the "Rainbow Bridge Poem" is a piece of poetic prose that talks about meeting your deceased pets in a place free of injury or pain and entering Heaven side by side.

My favorite line is, "so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart." I hold this truth inside my heart and head.

Graham is never truly gone. He is just at that Rainbow Bridge, waiting for me to come and join him.

Don't worry, buddy. Life is short. I'll be coming for ya before you know it.