There is no easy way to deal with losing a furry love. Our lives take on new meaning when we are enveloped by their ever constant love, companionship, and soulfulness. We consider ourselves the lucky ones, though, as we have clearly discovered the secret. A secret that is only shared by those who have been nurtured by a kindred soul's simple teachings of goodness and compassion.

As our animal companions are forever dependent on our care, they assume those roles typically assigned to children. And, there is no greater despair than to endure the loss of a child. Research indicates that after experiencing the death of a child, it may take three to five years for one to move on or begin to live their life again. We believe the same holds true for our furry children. The amount of pain we experience when a loved furchild dies is also a function of the level of the relationship. If you were the person responsible for your dog's needs, the one that your sweetheart cherished most, the one who was always there, then you will need more time to deal with this loss. All of that time that went into building this unique bond with your dog needs to be worked through. It can happen, but it takes time. The grieving process is an important one, despite society's demanding pace to move on.
                                            
A very special writer and Golden friend, Kathy Anne Harris, has this to say about A Golden's Stay (Copyright © 2004).

When I think of the many Goldens' whose time here with us is not as long as we'd like... I wonder why? It may be that they are able to give all the goodness they have within them, to us, and do it so well that their mission here is over faster than it might be for other dogs. Perhaps, like an evolved soul, they don't need to live as long to learn what they would here on earth. They already know most of what they need. And they are experts at bestowing their presence on us in a compacted period of time. So often, they are like mentors and can impart the lessons which will teach us many extraordinary things, by the simplest, kindest gesture from them.

I think Goldens unfurl their wings when we are not looking. Have you ever noticed an expression they have, especially when they smile, that gives hint to something wondrous and grand? As if they have the most incredible gift they are hiding behind their back but you can tell they want so very much to show you what it is. Well, when I see that expression I could swear I feel the flutter of their wings in my heart. ... It is said Goldens are puppies until the age of two. And that for a few, they will always be pups. Yet in many ways they are old beyond their years. They can touch and mold our hearts, our spirits, and our minds. And in so doing they bring us a little bit closer to embracing, within ourselves, the goodness they are. Which is grander than any concept of humanity.

We can never forget or replace the radiant place that our furry loves hold in our hearts. But, we can hold on tight to the memories of how they taught us to live, love & laugh. "Life is not a journey to the grave, with the intention of arriving safely, in one pretty and well-preserved piece, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out and shouting 'WOW...what a ride.'" Glorious Toby

The following words from Tracey Norris, from Scotland, illustrates this in such a special way. "Rochelle, It was so kind of you to think of me, I know you will know exactly how my heart is feeling right now, but I am eternally grateful for the 15 wonderful years that Toby gave me, full of excitement and Love, and a wonderful friendship that I will never forget. Even though I no longer own a Golden I will continue to visit your site daily as I always have. You are truly a inspiration to us all. When we feel like it's the end of the world when the death of our Golden happens, you are there to inspire us with wonderful stories of love and affection. That is what life is all about. Not dwelling but looking to the future, knowing that our Goldens are having a wonderful life over the bridge, and that we will all meet up again someday and be reunited."

9 Important Essentials to Know
Your Golden is truly one of the family.
A Golden is a cherished member of the family. He or she can take you for a walk or just listen when you need someone to talk to. Their presence can also lower your blood pressure, change your heart rate or take away feelings of loneliness. Just as we have the ability to love, it is necessary to be able to grieve when our “best friend” dies. And, the entire family needs to be allowed to grieve. Parents may feel uncomfortable talking about the death to their kids. They think this will spare them some of the pain and sadness. But, this is wrong. The whole family needs to talk freely together, even if through tears. Kids certainly love their Golden pals with all their hearts and souls. Now that their “best friend” is gone, they need to be allowed to grieve.

Your Golden's death will be an intensely upsetting experience.
This is not “just a dog.” This Golden family member helps us to define exactly who we are and what we mean when we say the word “family.” Our society, though, may not understand how distressful the event really is. They don't think you need to grieve for a “pet.” And, you may even be teased for openly and honestly showing your feelings. This may cause you to bury, hide, or ignore your sadness. But, this is not a good thing. You cannot heal and come to accept this loss, if you haven't expressed your painful feelings.

Clichés don't help you feel better at all.
You and your family will probably hear many clichés when this death happens. Clichés are simple little comments that are meant to help you feel less pain. But, little Band-Aids don't work when you're heart seems to be breaking in two. Comments like, “It was just a dog,” or “You can always get another one,” or “Be glad you don’t have to take care of him anymore” are really hurtful rather than helpful. They make your grieving more difficult.

Golden memories are extremely helpful and healing.
Memories are truly one of the best Golden legacies after a death like this has occurred. It really does help to talk about and cherish these memories. Even those memories of destructive puppy-ness are important. It's healing to remember when this Golden wonder made you laugh, helped to comfort you, showed true love & devotion for you, or simply made you scream out in frustration. And, it's okay if some of the memories make you laugh. But remember, some are also likely to bring you sadness and cause tears. But, memories that were made in love can never be taken away from your heart. 

You could have mixed emotions about the death.
When your Golden dies, you may experience many different emotions or feelings. You could feel confused, sad, angry, or guilty. But, it's important to express these feelings as ignoring them may keep you from overcoming the pain that you now feel. People may tell you not to show these feelings. But, that may only be due to they're feeling uncomfortable when they see you this way. And, they'd rather not see your distress when they know they have no ability to change what has happened. Just remember, its healthy and normal to feel this way. Each family member may have a particular way of showing their grief, because each probably had their own special Golden relationship. No way is the right or wrong way. Each of us has to grieve in our own way.

Euthanasia can actually be an unselfish, loving thing to do.
This is the toughest thing that anyone could be forced to admit. But, the choice to euthanize may be the right and loving one to make, especially if your guy is in extreme pain or the quality of his life has really deteriorated. Usually, your veterinarian can talk to you and explain how he thinks your buddy is feeling and what he thinks would be most humane at this point. The euthanasia procedure causes no pain, and the doctor can explain to you how everything works. Families have the ability to be with their hurting buddy when the procedure takes place. But, they do not have to be present. Each family member needs to do what is best for him or her. But, it is always important to spend some special time telling your guy what he has meant to you and making your final good-byes.

Golden family rituals can honestly be helpful.
Allowing a Golden funeral can be helpful and healing. It can allow time for each person to share memories and openly express their emotions. Of course, some friends or even people in your family may think that having a funeral is silly. But, this is the time to listen to yourself, and what you want. Each person does what is right for him or her. A funeral may provide relief as it allows you to formally pay tribute to your lost friend who was and will always be very much loved.

Trying to replace your Golden too soon can cause problems.

Families are often tempted to run out right away to get another dog after one has died. Certainly, that's what lots of friends and people in their family are telling them to do. But, it's really not a wise idea. We have to have a lot of time to heal, because we spent a lot of time loving. Having a new pup will demand lots of energy and attention, which will prevent you from having time to do your grieving. We need to be careful not to send out the wrong message. Your special buddy can never be replaced, just like any other family member could not be replaced. Could we simply go out and buy another brother if one died? And, what would that person think about your being able to replace him so quickly? There will surely come a time when you know that your family's grieving is over. And, then will be the time to build a new, though different, Golden relationship.

There Is One Best Place to bury a Golden.
"If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call—come to you over the grim dim frontier of death and down the well-remembered path and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him nor resent his coming ... for he belongs there. People may scoff at you, who see no slightest blade of grass bent by his foot fall, who hear no whimper—people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them for you shall know something that is hidden from them and which is well worth the knowing... The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master."  Ben Hur Lampman, Portland Oregonian, September 11, 1925


We have celebrated much during the many years that the Land of PureGold has been online. Yet, with that happiness comes tears due to continued losses. This video montage, Golden Angels, pays honor to some special loves who have lost their battles to cancer. The honored Goldens include: our own Ollie & Darcy, Blues, Georgia, Kaytee, Harley, Jake, Bullet, Nikie, Abel, Elwood, Chip, Cooper, Meggie, Libby, Kenna, and Devo. The music is by Livingston Taylor, a Golden lover from way back.

Hopefully the resources below may provide guidance. However, they are merely a guide—not a substitute for professional bereavement services. When we are no longer able to rest our hands on soft contented faces for support, such counselors sometimes are needed.

The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement's Chat Rooms are designed to provide a safe and supportive haven for those who have lost a beloved animal companion. Discussions are not ones for social chatting, as they are solely designated to cover topics related to pet loss and bereavement. It is important to note that while these chat rooms are caring and highly effective discussions, they should not be confused with clinical psychological counseling sessions. Rather, the focus is solely on pet bereavement. Although the tone is one of compassion and constructive supportiveness, this association cannot always regulate the variables that may arise in such an environment. In addition, advice or other considerations that are offered should not be construed as part of a professional counseling session. Those who are newly bereaved and visiting a chat room for the first time should try to come in as early as possible. In that way, more individual attention can be provided as chats can get crowded later on in the sessions. To enter a chat room session, just click here.


 


 

Dr. Wolfelt: Center of Loss and Life Transition
Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., C.T. is an internationally noted author, educator and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School's Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Wolfelt writes the "Children and Grief" column for Bereavement magazine and is the author of When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing. Affirming a pet owner's struggle with grief when his or her pet dies, this book helps mourners understand why their feelings are so strong and helps them overcome the loss. Included are practical suggestions for mourning and ideas for remembering and memorializing one's pet. Among the issues covered are understanding the many emotions experienced after the death of a pet; understanding why grief for pets is unique; pet funerals and burial or cremation; celebrating and remembering the life of one's pet; coping with feelings about euthanasia; helping children understand the death of their pet; and things to keep in mind before getting another pet.

Best known for his model of "companioning" versus treating the bereaved, Dr. Wolfelt is committed to helping people mourn well so they can live well and love well. His 2009 book, The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner: Eleven Essential Principles, is partly a counseling model and partly an explanation of true empathy, exploring the ways companionship eases grief. For caretakers who work with grieving people or for friends and family just hoping to stay close, 11 tenets are outlined for mourner-led care. These simple rules call for understanding another person's pain, listening with the heart rather than the head, not filling up every minute with words, respecting confusion and disorder, and relying on curiosity rather than expertise. We love his Companioning vs. Treating model below, also available to print as a PDF:

  1. Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  2. Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.
  3. Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about leading.
  4. Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  5. Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  6. Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling every painful moment with words.
  7. Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  8. Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about directing those struggles.
  9. Companioning is about being present to another person's pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  10. Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  11. Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.

Dr. Wolfelt recently created a Pet Loss Companioning Certification Program. This retreat is co-taught by Dr. Wolfelt (Day One Facilitator) and Coleen Ellis, Founder of Pet Angel Memorial Center and Two Hearts Pet Loss Center (Day Two, Three, and Four Facilitator). This learning retreat explores a variety of sub-topics related to pet loss, such as, the Six central needs of mourning; Dimensions of response to pet loss; Application of "companioning" philosophy of caregiving; Special need of children; and, Development of pet loss support groups. Dates: 2010 February 1 - 4, 2010 and February 7 - 10, 2011.

Grief: General These thoughtful articles provide guidance and direction for anyone touched by grief.

For Hospices and Other CaregiversThe following articles are designed to help caregivers take care of themselves as well as those who are suffering from loss.

Funerals, Memorials, Cremation and Related TopicsThe days following the death of a loved one can be filled with sadness and confusion. The following articles can help you understand the importance of the rituals surrounding death.

Helping Yourself with GriefSomeone you love has died. You are now faced with the difficult, but important, need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the death and the person who died. It is an essential part of healing. The following articles provide many practical suggestions to help you move toward healing in your unique grief journey.

Helping Others with GriefA friend has experienced the death of someone loved. How can you help? The following articles provide many practical suggestions for helping others with grief:

For and About Grieving Children and TeenagersChildren and teenagers have special needs following the death of a friend or family member. The following articles provide wonderful insight in helping children and teens understand and express their grief.

 

 

50-State Support Map
Please use this handy map to locate hotlines (toll free included), Support Groups & Bereavement Counselors.

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Your choice — turn off music or keep on.
From Ha Makom [CD] by Stacy Beyer

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Remembrance and Healing
Purchases help fund Cancer Treatment Grants for working dogs. We have included many ways to more positively acknowledge a loss, for a cherished friend or relative . . . or, for yourself. You can see the wide array here. Celebrating a dog's blessing in our lives is always appropriate, especially when they have left our sides . . . as the wonder they shared with us remains in our hearts forever.
 

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