Ask Amy: Pet's death causes human grief

January 15, 2014 

Dear Amy: We recently had to put our cat down. It came out of the blue. We had no idea that he had health issues, and we woke up early one morning to the cat crying out in pain. We immediately rushed him to the vet where the decision was made to put him down.

The vet said that at best treatment might prolong his life by two to three months. We did not want to see him suffer, so we chose to euthanize the cat.

I am having a rough time! I cry when I am alone.

I cry when I see pet commercials on television.

I put away everything that reminds me of the cat. But the last sight of seeing the cat in pain plays over and over in my head. I have had pets for most of my life, but these were my parents' pets, not truly mine.

I spent most of the day with the cat since everyone else was either at work or school.

My kids seem OK with what has happened, but why am I struggling? It has only been one week since his passing, so I hope things will get better. Do you have any suggestions?

— So sad

Dear Sad: There is no loss quite like the loss of a pet; these animals keep us company through important life passages and are beloved witnesses to our human lives.

I understand your instinct to put away all of your cat's things, but it may help you now to memorialize your pet by creating a temporary shrine of sorts.

Each family member can write down favorite things about him or memories of him; read their memories aloud and put the papers inside his bowl. The idea is to replace those traumatic last memories with much more lively memories taking place over the bulk of the animal's life.

Time will then do its job, which is to impose perspective. And then, when you're ready, I hope you will adopt another animal and give it the opportunity to share your life.

Dear Amy: "Broken-hearted Father" was worried about his daughter, who was going through a terrible breakup with a fellow grad student.

I agree with your advice to him, but I want to add that she should withdraw from school now, rather than later.

— Formerly heartbroken

Dear Formerly: I agree the daughter should change schools but think she should try to tough out the semester.


You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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