How to Cope With the Loss of a Pet

There was a time in my life when I thought I was going to be a psychologist. I was fascinated by the study of the human mind and desperately wanted to help people. As it turns out, I'm too much of a wimp to pull it off. I can't listen to a sad story without crumbling like an empathetic pansy. I can't watch someone cry without crying with them. And I certainly can't lose a pet without grieving the grief of one who's lost a family member.

Maybe you're here because you've found yourself in that same position. If so -- if you've recently lost a pet and are looking for ways to deal with the pain -- I firstly want you to know that I am so, so sorry.

No one can pretend to know what you're going through -- everyone experiences loss in a different way. Whether yours is a quiet hurt or a wailing wound, it can be difficult to believe that the pain will ever pass. Believe me, it will. There will come a day when you are able to look back on the memories and smile, rather than cry. Until then, you can take healthy steps to cope with the very normal process of grieving for your friend.

1) Don't blame yourself.
You may think your pet's passing is somehow your fault. Odds are, nothing could be further from the truth. Remember that you gave a loving home to an animal that might otherwise have been homeless. You made room in your heart for a dog, or a cat, or a horse to spend their days; to be cherished in a happy and secure environment. Nothing about that is worthy of guilt. Be proud of the place you had in your pet's life.

2) Surround yourself with people who understand.

Not everyone will be able to identify with the pet/pet-owner bond, let alone the emotional ramifications of having that bond disrupted by death. And that's okay. It doesn't make them evil people, and it doesn't mean you need to remove them from your life, or damage your social and working relationships. Right now, however, you need to take care of you. It's difficult enough undergoing this process without having your attachments devalued. So reach beyond your normal social sphere if you must. Make new friends. Join a support group. You may be surprised, not only by the number of people who will share in your grief, but also by the number of people willing to help you through it.

3) Give yourself as much time as you need.
Don't allow anyone to tell you how you should grieve -- or for how long. Some people move on more quickly than others. Making your way through the stages to acceptance may take weeks, it may take months. Don't feel ashamed if it takes longer. And don't feel guilty if it doesn't.

4) Honor your pet's passing in whatever way you feel is most appropriate.
Whether you opt for a burial, the saving or spreading of ashes following a cremation, or the planting of a living memorial (a tree, bush, or perennial flower), we humans find a great deal of comfort and closure in the performing of rituals. The idea of laying our loved ones to rest in a meaningful moment brings us peace. Give your pet and yourself the benefit of ceremony. If you can, supplement the ritual with something that allows you to feel useful and involved, like donating time or money to your local animal shelter.

5) Don't salt the wound.
You may find it more difficult to focus on yourself if you are surrounded by reminders of your pet's absence. Sometimes, it can be helpful to put your pet's things into storage until you've moved on to an easier stage in the grieving process. (If this is too difficult, you can ask a friend or a family member to do it for you.) You aren't locking away your memories, you're simply giving your heart the space it needs to cope.

6) Move on... but only when you're ready.
When the time comes to adopt a new pet, it's normal for people to feel as though they're replacing the one they lost. Take some time to reflect. You know yourself better than anyone. Are you hesitating because you aren't ready for a new pet? Or are you holding yourself back out of misplaced guilt? If you feel that you are ready, know that you aren't using your new pet as a filler to spare yourself pain, you are opening yourself up to new love and happiness -- both of which are things that you very much deserve.

Best of wishes, warmest regards, and every heartfelt hope to you in this difficult time. May your grief be gentle and fleeting. And may your memories fill you with comfort.

XOXO



~ Owner, Dearest Friend ~

I could never say enough,
Owner, dearest friend,
To thank you for the love you gave
To me, until the end.

I'm sorry that I hurt you
By saying my goodbye.
You gave me such a happy home.
I lived a happy life.

I leapt and played and laughed in ways
You maybe couldn't see.
Of all the pets you might have loved,
I'm glad that you chose me.

It's okay to miss me,
For I will miss you, too.
It's okay to bow your head
And cry if you have to.

However hard it seems today,
Your dear, sweet heart will heal.
For now, my friend, remember me
And feel what you must feel.

But don't give up on loving,
Owner, dearest friend.
Although the cost is oh-so-high,
It's worth it, in the end

To know that you made this pet's life
The best one it could be.
It should be no mystery why
You meant the world to me.

So here's my final word, my friend,
This is my last wish.
Find another lonely pet
And give to them my dish.

Then every time they make you smile,
Know that I'm smiling, too.
Still so proud
To once have been
A dearest friend to you.

~ Vivienne Mathews (2013)

Resources:
ASPCA Assistance ~ http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-loss/
Pet Loss Hotline ~ (877) GRIEF-10
Pet Loss Support Page (Search for Counseling or Pet Cemeteries in Your State) ~  http://www.pet-loss.net/
Grief Support Center of Rainbow's Bridge (Forums and Chat Rooms) ~ http://www.rainbowsbridge.com/Grief_Support_Center/Grief_Support_Home.htm
Helping Children Deal With Loss ~ http://family.go.com/parenting/pkg-school-age/article-796133-dealing-with-the-loss-of-a-pet-t/

Word Confessions

Writers are delusional. All of them. The smart ones check themselves into treatment. Those of us who are a little more... challenged... in areas of reason just keep putting pen to paper until our sanity is so far gone that the paper starts talking back to us. In exchange, we get to walk around with the oh-so-distinguished air of someone who's just super with the English language.

Totally worth it.

But here's the thing. Beneath that phony air (the one that hinders our social abilities and smells vaguely of cinnamon), writers tend to have a very love/hate relationship with words. We are not masters of language. We're members of the chain gang with Stockholm syndrome and we're praying to every deity ever known that no one will find us out. To prove it, I'm dumping a pile of word droppings here for your reading pleasure.

I hope you still respect me in the morning.

If ever you did, that is. I don't want to get ahead of myself with assumptions.

  • No matter how often I use the word specificity, I still have to say it one syllable at a time in order to say it correctly.
  • It bothers me that the word omelet isn't spelled "omelette," and actively have to remind myself that "trying to class up a pedestrian word" is no excuse for poor spelling. (Don't tell me something isn't allowed to be upscale if it came out of a chicken's multipurpose pooter. Think Faberge eggs, people.)
  • I was practically an adult before I learned that the proper pluralization for octopus isn't "octopi." (It's octopodes, but most nations adopted the word octopuses instead -- which seems somehow vulgar...)
  • I love the word copacetic, because reasons.
  • I don't understand why people don't use the words argle-bargle and bumbershoot on a daily basis.
  • I laughed for an hour the first time I heard the word hoary.
  • Absent sarcasm, I can't say the words sublime or mellifluous without sounding pretentious.
  • Absent an impressive case of the Mondays, I can't say hootenanny, kumquat, or bubbles in an angry tone of voice.
  • I love that the word bad in German means bath, and that gift means poison. I think this says something about the differences in our cultures.
  • I think American politics has forever ruined the word maverick
  • I spend way too much time reading phobia names and definitions because I get to learn words like genuphobia (the fear of knees) and hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (the fear of long words).

So, as you can see, I'm still learning to get on with language in a civilized manner. Whether or not we'll come to an arrangement in the long run is anyone's guess.

Cheers, all.

Oh, and if you aren't sick of me just yet (How could you not be? What on earth is wrong with you?), take a gander at this week's interviews.
With Book Goodies:
Interview #1
With author, Val Muller

Meet Author Val Muller

Don't worry, I promise not to make a habit of it.

It's just that Val Muller, author of the middle-grade mystery series Corgi Capers and the upcoming horror novel Faulkner's Apprentice, was kind enough to stop by for an interview and my excitement got the better of me. Note that our names start with "V" and we're both redheads. I feel a kinship forming.




Welcome, Ms. Muller!
Thanks for hosting me!

My pleasure -- it's wonderful to have you. How long have you been writing?
My first "book" came in first grade: The Mystery of Who Killed John Polly. It was my show-and-tell project for about three years in a row!

Do you have any writing quirks? (A favorite pen? Naming your typewriter, that sort of thing?)
I write most of my first drafts by hand. It's taking a toll on my wrist, so I've been trying to teach myself how to compose first drafts on a keyboard. I haven't found a keyboard I "love" yet, but I'll keep on it!

What is the most difficult part of writing for you? How do you overcome it?
I hate editing my own work -- not the first draft of edits, but the final polishing. I get so nervous about it, and I have to keep pulling myself out of the story so I don't get lost in the narrative (and focus instead on the tiny nuances of a final edit). 

Looking back on your writing career thus far, is there anything you wish you'd done differently?
I wish I had started taking it seriously earlier. After college I kind of fell into my job and never took writing seriously. I guess I had that perception that writing was just something that happened to people, not something that a writer actively pursued. Obviously, I woke up!

Do you have any advice for new or aspiring authors?
Read. Write. Repeat.   

It's clear that you've been inspired by your adorable dogs where Corgi Capers is concerned. Was there a particular moment when you looked at them and thought, "I just HAVE to write about these guys?"
Walking them through the neighborhood, a bunch of kids started asking me what kind of adventures the dogs get in while I'm at work. Their interest in my dogs' "secret lives" inspired me to write it down. Plus, my dogs have very distinct personalities, making it easy to turn them into characters.


Do you have a certain line, scene, or character that you're most proud of?
"The bad man" from my most recent horror novel is the character that most stands out to me. He's pure evil, and I've even had multiple nightmares about him. Yikes!

What is the best feedback you've received?
A kid in my neighborhood, a beta reader, told me that she liked Corgi Capers better than The Hunger Games!

Favorite fan interaction?
A fan posted a YouTube video on Facebook. It was a scene where a dog let another dog out of its crate. This is exactly what happens in Corgi Capers, and the fan was thinking of that exact scene when she saw the video. It made my day!



 What do you do when you aren't writing?
My full-time job is teaching. I teach 11th and 12 grade English and creative writing. I like spending much of my day talking about and reading literature. Standardized tests... not so much!

What's your favorite film?
Back to the Future. I've loved it ever since I first saw it. I think, subconsciously, that movie taught me much of what I know about writing.

Ninjas or pirates?
Pirates. Definitely pirates.

That is absolutely the correct answer. Is there anything else you'd like the readers to know about you?
I'm very bad at spelling. Oh, and you can find me here:

Corgi Capers: www.CorgiCapers.com (Currently holding a contest! Enter for the chance to name a character in Corgi Capers, Book 3!)

I'd like to thank Ms. Muller for her time and consideration in answering all of my obnoxious questions with such class! I'll leave you all with an excerpt from her upcoming horror novel, Faulkner's Apprentice, available April 30th! Drop by Goodreads to enter a giveaway!


Excerpt:

As the morning progressed, Lorei grew more comfortable talking to fans and journalists. Before long, she had even perfected her signature. She pulled back her sweater and smiled when her body caught the eye of a patron. For the first time in her life, she felt her luck might actually be taking a turn for the better. 
By the time the line dwindled to the last customer, Lorei was riding a wave of adrenaline. The fame, the success; it was a taste of all she had worked for and longed for since high school.All the random day jobs; all the long, dark hours poring over her writing. It was all worthwhile now. She had even collected a stack of phone numbers. 
But when she looked up to greet the last customer in line, her confidence shattered. The color on her cheeks drained with her adrenaline. It was a man in a worn, brown fedora and a weathered trench coat; it was the same man who had been creeping near her backyard. 
This time, he was close enough for her to examine his face. The face was so gruesome that the man’s gaze terrified her, yet it was so horribly captivating that she could not look away. The face was wrinkled, leathery, and gaunt. Pouches of flesh sagged under his eyes, and when he smiled at her, the flabby flesh stretched tight against his lips. His gnarled and knobby nose reminded Lorei of a haunted old tree that grew outside her childhood bedroom window; it housed a spooky old owl that used to keep her awake with its ghostly hooting. He looked more like a scarecrow than a man. Lorei shuddered as the strange man stepped up to the table and cleared his throat. Other customers mingled around the store, each one clutching a newly-signed book like a precious treasure. Those who had been so adamant to see her a moment ago seemed to have forgotten her existence. She was left horribly alone and had no choice but to confront the man with her gaze. 
His countenance held all the properties of childhood nightmares—unexplainable and visceral and terribly real. His skin was weathered like the aging autumn; gnarled and twisted, it seemed to protest its own age. His bottom lip was swollen and split on one side with scarred-over stitches holding it together. Above the opposite eyebrow was a wide and leathery scar. Shadowed by a heavy brow sunk two piercing eyes, coal-black. The gaze that blazed from them pierced Lorei with the shrillest of winter winds and yet burned through her core like fire. 
“I—” was all she could mutter. She sat paralyzed. The man held no book for her to sign and said nothing. His hands he kept in his coat pockets, his gaze penetrating all the while. He seemed comfortable enough standing in silence. 
Lorei looked again for the manager, but Diane stood absorbed in conversation on the other side of the store. Like the customers, she was oblivious to Lorei’s situation. Lorei and the stranger were enclosed in their own private sphere of existence. Even if she screamed, she knew that no one would hear. No one would look. There was something intangible that separated her from the rest of humanity just then. 
She closed her eyes, hoping that it was all just her imagination. But when she opened them again, the man was still there. He had removed his hands from his pockets, and they were fondling the inside cover of Faulkner’s newest book. He ran his finger up and down the dust jacket, tracing the contours of Faulkner’s headshot. 
“Something sad about his face, don’t you think?” the man asked. His voice was at once wispy and gruff enough to match his appearance. It had the qualities of a lonely fall breeze rustling through the last of the dried leaves that were nature’s only stronghold against the death of winter. 
Lorei could not answer right away. Instead, she was captivated by the sight of his finger. Like his face, the skin on his hands was dingy, stained an earthen color. His nail was long like a claw, and black. It looked dead, like it would soon fall away. He traced the long nail around and around, forcing her eyes to examine the portrait. It hypnotized her so that she couldn’t look away. And then, the familiar and smoldering eyes of Faulkner’s headshot made her forget all about the gaunt man in the fedora.  
       



Amazon Release Party!



THRILLED to report that Book One is now available on Amazon! (Pick it up HERE? Pretty please?)

Because I'm far too agoraphobic to ever hold an actual release party, I'll instead be sitting in my house drinking coffee and throwing confetti in the air while Amazon hosts my weekend giveaway. Swing by my product page between Friday, April 19th and Sunday, April 21st to snag yourself a copy without having to track down your wallet. (I can't be the only person who loses theirs on a daily basis, can I?)

Remember that you don't need to own a Kindle in order to download/read this wee, piratey adventure. Amazon offers free reading apps to those of us who are a smidgen behind on current technology.

Once you've got it in your hot little hands, give a listen to this fantastic tune by Josiah Leming -- because I have every intention of forcing Paramount to use it as the theme song when they purchase the movie rights.

Don't laugh.

It could happen, it really could... <.<    >.>

 
Purchase the studio version of this song from iTunes!

True Story

Though this may not count as a genuine post, I just consulted Neil Gaiman's oracle and received this single-word response:
Yes, that says "Albatross!" No, I didn't shop it!

By next week, you'll know why this is both awesome and eerily coincidental.

Also, my first book trailer is now live!


This has been entirely too much excitement for one day. (Translation: I should probably make an attempt to get out more.)