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Coping with the Loss of a Bulldog
Most Bulldog owners will, at some time, face the loss by death of a beloved Bulldog. To assist owners with grief management, this article has been prepared by Christina Crowell, MSW, a professional social worker who is also a dog lover.
What is grief?
Everyone in this hobby at one time or another has had to say goodbye to a Bulldog that we loved. When you lose something that you've invested yourself in, it always hurts and leaves a wound. Grief is the process of healing the wound that results from the pain of a loss. It is a health-restoring experience. Unrecognized, unhealed grief, however, leaves festering wounds. Unresolved grief has been considered to be a cause behind a surprising amount of stress-related diseases. Over a lifetime one gives up a host of life's treasures -- small ones like a day on the beach with your Bulldog or the end of a long-awaited vacation. Letting to involves pain. The pain of a loved one's death is more overwhelming than the disappointment of a canceled vacation. But the fact is, both losses hurt. The death of a relative, of a pet, of a dream all set grief into motion.
When does grief cause trouble?
Grief is never easy. When it is viewed as something to be avoided, trouble starts. If you view grief as negative, then you will be tempted to block out your feelings. You will thus stop the healing process and suppress the pains and various itches that signal healing. You may adapt coping mechanisms designed to numb the pain and eliminate your feelings. When this happens, you get stuck with the loss and may never recover from it. When you carry your unhealed losses around with you, you keep the wound open and multiply the pain. Here are some thoughts to consider:
- Grief is a natural result of loss.
- Grief is necessary. It helps you heal.
- The duration of grief corresponds to the depth of the loss.
- Grief affects the whole person.
- People seldom experience the grief stages in the same sequence.
- Distress occurs when people stop the healing process and do not work through their grief.
What can be expected from the grief process?
When you lose something important to you, your entire being is affected. You grieve with your whole person, not just the mind or spirit. Most people move through a series of stages when they are grieving -- steps that help them bid farewell to the past and invest themselves again in the present. The steps don't always occur in sequence but in one way or another they usually touch your life. The process is a natural and predictable as the formation of a scab on a cut and the subsequent itching that signals healing.
Guilt -- To endure your pain you may take personal responsibility for the loss. Feeling guilty and not being able to express your reasons often seems more bearable than having no culprit and no explanation.
Depression and Loneliness -- You may find yourself withdrawing from others who do not seem to understand. Feeling isolated may escalate into depression.
Drugs are not helpful -- Medication taken under a physician's guidance may prolong and delay the necessary process of grieving.
We cannot cure grief. The only way OUT of it is to go THROUGH it.