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Question
Posted by: Annette | 2011/10/06

Mothers grief over her deceased pet

My mom had to put her dog down in July.
Had her 15 years.
My mom stays with us.
She has received the jar with the ashes (beautifully handpainted with her name on it and all).
My mom takes the jar everywhere with her, talks to it, puts it on the floor next to the table outside.
I know she is grieving badly (I howled my own eyes out and miss her terribly).
My mom is 70 and a widow.
How long is this kind of healthy for?
We are not saying anything to make fun of her or of the situation because she was quite ill over the dog - developed bad bronchitis and it took a long time for her to stop crying.
Making a joke like if the chemist delivers something we say we would not be suprised if the jar started barking and ran out. She says yes she would not be surprised and laughs.
I don''t know and my hubby says let it pass over naturally.

Thank you

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Loss of a pet is a very real cause of grief, and 2-4 months is still early in the process of grief work, even if some of her reactions sound somewhat extreme. That she can see something humorous in the situation recently suggests a bit of progress.
Normal grief takes 9 months or more, and while in the first month or so most people accept the grief, after that they find it upsetting to themselves and wish we would get over it, long before we are ready to do so, or even able to do so.
Be cautious about a replacement animal - sometimes they are valuable WHEN the individual wants it ( which may be never, or later ) ; and not as an automatic response. I like the idea of an older needy animal if she becomes interested in this. It can never be a replacement, but may be an agreeable new companion. And cats may indeed be worth considering - they can be very affectionate and less physically demanding.
And Obvious - thanks for the "oldies" line !!! Accurate, though !
Patricia makes some excellent points, too. Especially about talking about the dog, and sharing happy memories, rather than letting her concentrate solely on the loss.
In your later comments, it's implid that the dog didn't die of natural causes, but had to be "put down" due to the insensitive rules after moving her home - if so, that's in many ways worse, as there's far more room to feel guilty, as the death had to be decided and deliberate rather than accidental or natural. In the jar, she has found a form of pet that can still be comforting without breaking the rules. And as eia says, one should consider this like aby other bereavement - thus far going normally, but counselling may become appropriate if the degree of nisery gets worse, or fails to progress in a few more months.

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Our users say:
Posted by: ela | 2011/10/08

I think your mother must consider visiting a psychologist or a counselor to help her with these issues..it might be . like the others mentioned above , a coping mechanism to forget the reality of death. A dog does not criticize you and he is loyal to the end. Maybe she needed the same comfort from her family members? The dog''s death was maybe like loosing a good friend or a child. Keeping your mom busy is a very good idea , let her go through a proper stage of mourning.

Reply to ela
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/10/08

Loss of a pet is a very real cause of grief, and 2-4 months is still early in the process of grief work, even if some of her reactions sound somewhat extreme. That she can see something humorous in the situation recently suggests a bit of progress.
Normal grief takes 9 months or more, and while in the first month or so most people accept the grief, after that they find it upsetting to themselves and wish we would get over it, long before we are ready to do so, or even able to do so.
Be cautious about a replacement animal - sometimes they are valuable WHEN the individual wants it ( which may be never, or later ) ; and not as an automatic response. I like the idea of an older needy animal if she becomes interested in this. It can never be a replacement, but may be an agreeable new companion. And cats may indeed be worth considering - they can be very affectionate and less physically demanding.
And Obvious - thanks for the "oldies" line !!! Accurate, though !
Patricia makes some excellent points, too. Especially about talking about the dog, and sharing happy memories, rather than letting her concentrate solely on the loss.
In your later comments, it's implid that the dog didn't die of natural causes, but had to be "put down" due to the insensitive rules after moving her home - if so, that's in many ways worse, as there's far more room to feel guilty, as the death had to be decided and deliberate rather than accidental or natural. In the jar, she has found a form of pet that can still be comforting without breaking the rules. And as eia says, one should consider this like aby other bereavement - thus far going normally, but counselling may become appropriate if the degree of nisery gets worse, or fails to progress in a few more months.

Reply to cybershrink
Posted by: Annette | 2011/10/07

thank you everyone.
I should have added that we moved and no pets are allowed not even a little rat and we thought about that.
I also had to give my cat away but because I developed very bad allergies to her. She is a super happy cat in a totally cat orientated family - she has a few cat sisters and brothers too.
Yes the dog was a terrible, terrible loss and to us she was a person.
I am keeping my mom busy (taking her out), talking to her about the dog. I had to take them to the vet and hold the dog it was not nice. I honestly feel for anyone that went through this. I took a day''s leave. they are people and very nice people at that.
yes, I will watch mom and see how things go. She says she does not want another pet as she does not wish to face the death of it again.
Annette

Reply to Annette
Posted by: Patricia | 2011/10/07

Maybe taking the jar everywhere is her way to cope. I always found it silly when I saw women kiss and talk to their dogs as if they were children until I got a cat and realized that an animal is actually very much like a human being. Once you get attached, losing them can be very hard.

I moved to another country and had to leave my cat with another family because of bureaucratic reasons. It was one of the hardest decisions in my life. It''s been 3 years and I still cry sometimes. I had only had her for 2 years, but I think that''s enough for a person to become very attached to the pet.

If I were you, I''d talk to your mom from time to time. Say how you wish the dog was still with you. I think in cases like this, it''s important to know you''re not the only one who is suffering. I think she might feel better and accept the loss more easily if she sees everyone shares the same feeling of sadness. Don''t be afraid to talk about it. Try to remember all the funny and happy things about the dog, so good memories start replacing the feelings of grief. Maybe you could even ask her if she would mind leaving the jar at home with you sometimes, on days when you miss the dog too. Maybe that would help her grow accustomed to the idea of not having the jar every single day and, slowly, she might start adapting to a life without her dog. See how she reacts to these suggestions.

I hope it works. But 3 months is still a short time, especially for a 70-year-old who may no longer have a busy work life to keep her mind off the sad thoughts.

Reply to Patricia
Posted by: Obvious | 2011/10/06

Get a kitten - tell her if the person who gave it to you was going to put it down. She will melt!
Cats do not need excersise and are ideal for oldies - ask CS!
As its not a dog it will not remind her of he loss.
Problem solved.

Reply to Obvious
Posted by: Jenna | 2011/10/06

Nice suggestion to get an older dog - she won''t then have to train it and all that. May I add that the reason I say not to get another pet is that when my MIL''s dog had to be put down, my husband got her another dog a few months later. Well, MIL never accepted the dog and gave it back to the SPCA about a year later. Maybe put feelers out to see how she reacts at the suggestion to a new dog...

Reply to Jenna
Posted by: Milly | 2011/10/06

My little dog died at the age of 16yrs old. I understand her loss I cried constantly. Especially when I saw another dog. My Hubby decided to take me to SPCA to choose an adult dog. The best thing I could have ever done. I realise she is elderly but is getting an older dog from one of the animal welfare orgainisations a possibilty? Good Luck.

Reply to Milly
Posted by: Jenna | 2011/10/06

It''s only been a few months and a dog is like a child to some people (I was devastated when I had to put my rat down and I only had her for two years). If she''s still like this by next year then I''d say that she may be quite depressed about it. At her age, I''m sorry to say, death should be expected but it doesn''t make it better- maybe she wanted the dog to outlive her so she wouldn''t have to deal with this. I woudn''t suggest getting another dog, but maybe talking about the doggy might make her feel better.

Reply to Jenna

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