A few days ago, I spoke with psychotherapist Chiara Castelli about the 5 stages of grief through Euthanasia.
You should know that a few weeks ago, I received a very touching story via email from a girl named Nathalie and her sweet cat, Willy.
And how she experienced her terrible loss...
In this article, I want to share it with you and at the same time. You will also find Chiara Castelli's advice where she will explain the 5 stages of grief in a simple way. And how to recognize certain attitudes and emotions, to be able to overcome the pain in a sweeter way.
Nathalie's Story and the Loss of Willy through Euthanasia
Nathalie is a 35-year-old girl who adopted a kitten named Willy some time ago. Willy was a wild kitten, saved from the flames of a fire that occurred in an old countryside house by firefighters.
He was recovered and subsequently taken to a shelter, the same one where Nathalie later adopted little Willy.
Willy, after the fire, wasn't in good health... He had several burns and wounds and a beginning of an eye infection. Fortunately, once he arrived at the shelter, thanks to the care of a wonderful veterinarian, the eye infection and the fire injuries disappeared, and Willy returned in great shape.
One week after his recovery, Nathalie decided to adopt him and bring him home with her. Nathalie was super excited to have a new friend. Willy was her first pet, and she decided to adopt him after the loss of her partner, who unfortunately lost his life in a car accident. The Cat had brought back the joy in Nathalie's apartment to the point that Nathalie herself, as soon as she left home to go to work, couldn't wait to come back home to hug her cat.
Willy had really brought a light that had been missing in Nathalie's life for a long time.
Both had become very fond of each other. The moments of play and cuddles were the moment of the greatest demonstration of mutual love. But not only that. Even the holidays were a moment full of joy for both. From preparations for holiday meals to decorating the house and furniture with ornaments, for Nathalie and Willy, every moment was steeped in joy and affection.
Read also Euthanasia: Sid's story.
Loss of Cat through Euthanasia
At the tenth year of Willy's life, his and Nathalie's lives changed radically: Willy's health worsened, and Nathalie noticed this because a cyst grew on Willy's neck.
The cat was underwent surgery, and the cyst removed. The cat's condition initially seemed to improve, but suddenly a new cyst reappeared on the cat's body. Nathalie took the cat back to the veterinarian, and the cat was operated on again, and the new cyst was also removed. However, the veterinarian seemed very worried and in agreement with Nathalie, decided to do further tests on the cat's health condition.
The veterinarian, in tears, once he had the results of the tests on Willy, told Nathalie that her cat was seriously ill and that unfortunately, there was nothing more to be done. He also told her that the kitten would have had little to live and with great suffering. Therefore, he asked her to reflect on the fact of keeping the cat with her until the cat had passed away or opting for euthanasia.
Nathalie was devastated and didn't know what to do.
Life had taken away her partner, and now it was taking away her cat too. Desperate and saddened, she decided to talk to her parents, her colleagues, her lifelong friends. But not only that.
She also decided to turn to a psychotherapist. She felt enveloped in a whirlwind of negative emotions because she wanted to keep the cat with her until the end. Euthanasia made her feel damned guilty. But at the same time, the thought of seeing her cat suffer didn't make her feel at peace with herself.
After several days of reflection and several sessions with the psychotherapist, Nathalie finally became more aware of the situation and matured a decision.
With a heavy heart, she communicates to the veterinarian to choose euthanasia.
5 Stages of Grief and Loss: What the Psychotherapist says
During psychotherapy sessions, she had worked on anticipating grief to begin processing the difficult experience related to the probable loss of her cat. This also served to prepare for the 5 stages of grief, as discussed by Elisabeth Kübler Ross (1969).
Let's see the details of this process that also happens for the loss of loved ones:
The first reaction when facing a loss is shock and disbelief, which leads to denial, not realizing the actual loss.
This state of denial can last for a while, but eventually, reality begins to make itself felt, and one begins to process what has happened. One can feel sad, angry, lonely, or even guilty, but these feelings are part of the grieving process and are entirely normal. At this point, it is important to take the necessary time to process the loss.
Bargaining is a difficult and perceived as a temporary phase in which one realizes the loss. During this period, one tries in every way to relive the past, to convince oneself that the loss is not fatal.
One can experience many conflicting emotions, such as sadness, anger, and frustration. One should not be in a hurry to overcome this phase; everyone needs their time.
When every attempt at bargaining fails, anger sets in. This feeling can be directed at the lost person, blamed for being responsible for the situation one finds oneself in and for having abandoned us. But it can also be directed at oneself, against destiny, or any entity one turns to in inexplicable situations.
After experiencing the first stages, one falls into a state of sadness and loneliness, surrendering rationally to the situation.
The experience of losing a loved one or a pet can be emotionally difficult and overwhelming. After facing the initial stages of grief, it is common to fall into a state of sadness and loneliness. During this phase, one can feel lost, powerless, and have difficulty accepting one's loss.
Despite the pain, it is important to remember that it is normal to experience these emotions during the grieving process. It is a natural and necessary part of the healing process. It is important to give oneself time and space to cry and seek support.
With time, things begin to gradually improve. Rationally understanding the loss serves to make peace with oneself and to begin to glimpse a possible future. This phase is accompanied by a rebirth of hope, a new balance between those who remain alive and those who have left life and are in another condition, unknown to us.
Understanding the 5 stages of Grief
Nathalie spent several days in tears, and every evening after dinner, she sat in front of the basket where her Willy usually slept.
The pain was strong, but she was aware of having made the best choice and realized that she had no guilt regarding that situation. Willy was too sick, and in the last few days, he didn't move and didn't even meow anymore. He was really suffering too much.
The night after Willy's disappearance, Nathalie had a dream: she met her boyfriend who hugged her and told her that she was brave and made the best choice for Willy, and that now she doesn't have to worry about the cat: he will be the one keeping an eye on him. Subsequently, he accompanies her to the doors of the rainbow bridge, and together they watch Willy happily playing with other animals.
From that day on, Nathalie, even though the pain for the loss of her four-legged friend is very present, is psychologically more secure about her choice.
The mystery that accompanies death often scares us, so it is important to have "faith = trust" in a narrative that is convincing for us, to think that there are other possible dimensions.
This allows us to "let go" of our loved ones, to be tuned in to our emotions, even if they are difficult, to refocus before acting impulsively, making perhaps wrong choices.
Time, ours and the world around us, is a factor to keep in mind. Our processing time may not coincide with the time of others; it is not our fault, nor that of others.
Often grief brings up many unresolved guilt feelings; therefore, the psychotherapy path is the best way to re-elaborate these experiences in a new light.
Nathalie's choice to opt for euthanasia for her beloved cat Willy was not easy. She had to take into consideration many factors, including her pet's health, her emotional well-being, and her responsibilities as a pet owner.
The decision to choose euthanasia can be very painful and difficult for any pet owner, and Nathalie was no different. She had to face the possibility of seeing her beloved cat suffer and die slowly, but at the same time, she felt guilty for the choice to end Willy's life.
However, with the help of a therapist, Nathalie was able to process her grief and come to terms with her decision. She learned to accept the death of her four-legged friend and find peace in her decision.
Nathalie's choice was delicate and painful, but in the end, it was the right one for her beloved cat. She demonstrated to be a loving and caring owner, who did everything possible to ensure her pet's well-being.
If you are experiencing a similar situation, it is important to know that you are not alone. There are many resources and support available to help you process your grief and make difficult decisions. Don't hesitate to seek help from a professional or to talk to trusted friends and family.
Remember that every pet owner must face the death of their pet differently, and there is no right or wrong answer. What counts is making the best decisions to ensure the well-being of your four-legged friend and finding peace in the process of processing grief.
I hope these words have been helpful to you. If you need further support or someone to talk to, don't hesitate to contact me.
I send you a big hug.