Wednesday, January 27, 2010
And when it's the death of a cherished animal companion, the mourner's pain can be cruelly exacerbated by friends and associates who don't understand or sympathize with the magnitude of the loss. A person can feel terribly alone, and sometimes even imagine that she's losing her mind. But as Sid Korpi demonstrates in Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss, those who suffer in silence after the deeply felt death of an animal companion are neither crazy nor alone. There are many of us, and in a very real sense, the stories that Ms. Korpi tells about people who have loved and lost their animals are our stories, too.
Having been inspired to tackle this daunting subject by the deaths of several of her own beloved dogs and cats, Sid brings a highly personal perspective to the process of caring for terminally ill pets, grieving after their deaths, feeling their presence after they've died, and making the choice to welcome a new animal. She also shares some interesting insights from other observers, such as the idea that "it is quite common for pets to pass away around the time of huge, family-life-altering events such as a death, birth, or divorce."
Sid makes it clear that she's among the believers in the idea that people and animals live on after they die. To those who seek proof that their dear animal friend is still with them after death, Sid's advice is down-to-earth and straightforward:
"By simply being open to and actively/intuitively observant of the signs, one can receive amazing messages from the Other Side without the aid of a medium or possession of special psychic abilities of one's own. Conversely, if you are afraid, skeptical, or simply not willing or open to welcome such experiences, chances are you will never have them. What we believe shapes our experience of reality to a tremendous degree."
One of my favorite stories in Good Grief pertains to the way in which Sid, and her husband, Anthony, came to adopt their Westie, Mortimer, after the death of their precious Westie, Ludwig. Mindful that they could not, and would not, ever set about to replace Ludwig, Sid and Anthony decided to "ask" Ludwig, and another departed Westie, Tuppence, to find them the perfect new dog. "We knew there would be cause for celebration and gratitude when we found this dog, not guilt and anguish, as might have been the case." And sure enough, just two days after they had made the request, they found a stray Westie at a far-away humane society whom they immediately recognized as having been sent by Ludwig and Tuppence. When Mortimer arrived in their home, even their cats welcomed him as an old friend.
Sid includes a lengthy, practical section on the importance and therapeutic value of memorializing a departed animal in a way that will honor his life and his spirit and sometimes even help other animals. I remember that when I lost my first Springer Spaniel, Sarah, my sadness at her death propelled me to enlist as a volunteer for New England English Springer Spaniel Rescue. I soon recognized that in helping dogs who needed someone to love them, I was helping myself, too.
What I liked best about Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss, is that Sid Korpi approaches her subject with compassion, kindness, empathy, and even a sense of humor. She demystifies this taboo topic, and makes it a lot less scary. If you're mourning the death of a much-loved animal friend, you'll find comfort here.