Anticipatory grief is grief that occurs before a death. It is common among people facing the eventual death of a loved one.
This can include their pets, especially if our pet is diagnosed with a life limiting condition, we may experience stress, anxiety and other emotions relating to worry over their eventual death - this can in combination be defined as anticipatory grief.
You may feel embarrassed to admit that you are feeling such emotions before the loss of a pet, but the truth is that due to the wonderful bond between people and their pets, the feelings you experience are valid and you absolutely should feel supported through them.
Please do not suffer alone, if you are experiencing mental health burdens in the lead up (and following) the loss of a pet, please seek help and support.
There are support services that you can be signposted to if you need help.
Pet bereavement helplines
Face to face counselling
As much as we would all like our pets to die and painlessly in their sleep at a great age, this is rarely the case. Euthanasia is typically the most humane option to prevent prolonged pain and suffering. It may seem morbid to talk about it before it happens, but the fear of the 'unknown' and not knowing when the time is right can be a major source of worry.
If this is an issue that’s worrying you, have a chat with your caring veterinary team in advance. We can talk you through the options, the euthanasia process and what to expect. For some people, this takes a weight off their mind for when the time comes.
Quality of Life
When we have a pet who is old, terminally ill or has a life limiting condition it can be hard, with our love and emotions to think objectively about their health and when to make the decision to euthanase.
Your veterinary team won't expect you to make rational decisions when faced with such a huge decision.
That is why they are there to support and guide. Quality of life discussions can be very difficult, for everyone, but are often an essential conversation to have.
Talk about quality of life, use quality of life scales, and be guided by the support of your knowledgeable team to know when the time is right.
If you need support or recognise any of these signs in yourself currently please do seek support.
If you are an owner please look to a trained bereavement or pet bereavement professional or contact the Blue Cross https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss
If you are a Vet or RVN please contact the above or Vetlife https://helpline.vetlife.org.uk/
Source: Veterinary Voices UK