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BPD and "Best Friends" - Mourning the Loss of a Pet

September 3, 2013 Becky Oberg

My family got together for Labor Day. While we had a good time (my nephews and niece, all age 3 and younger, have discovered water balloons), I left worried about my brother Dan. Dan is depressed because his cat, Elfman, is sick, possibly cancer. He's doted on this cat for twelve years, and was down enough to not have interest in the steak Dad grilled (if you know Dan, you'll know that's serious). It reminded me that some people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may take the loss of a pet especially hard. So here are some tips on how to get through the loss of a "best friend" of the fur variety.

Acknowledge your grief

To the outside observer, Osiris was a rat. To me, he was my furkid. A jumbo rat with a black head, black eyes and black and white body, he was affectionate, always wanting to be near any human who happened past his cage and freely sharing kisses. But as he got old, he started to suffer. On my 24th birthday, he could barely move. I took him to the vet, knowing he was a goner but wanting to spare him any further pain. The vet was understanding and let me watch as he was put to sleep. The process was peaceful--she gave him an anesthetic before injecting him with the medicine--and that was some comfort. But as I left the vet's office with his body, I started crying.

Regardless of how silly you feel, you are experiencing a very real loss. Pets are a part of the family. While it is difficult for anyone to lose a pet, to a person with BPD, it may trigger feelings of abandonment. That is why it is crucial to acknowledge the loss--it is a legitimate pain, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Grief involves five stages--denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. You don't always go through these stages in that order, nor do you necessarily go through each stage once. Knowing this makes it easier to deal with grief.

Remember the good times

The loss of a pet is similar to the loss of a person in that it helps to remember the good times. I dealt with Osiris's death by remembering the good times I had with him. I remembered how he loved to ride on my shoulder. I smiled as I thought about his Pavlovian reaction to my alarm clock, which to him meant breakfast. And I laughed to myself as I remembered how he loved the marinara sauce from Papa John's pizza--I always ordered extra sauce on the side for him. I even took him to class a couple of times when I was still in college. I remembered the good times.

What good times did you have with your pet? What made him or her special? Why did you love him or her, and what indicated that he or she loved you back? Ask yourself these questions, find the answers, and feel your grief partially resolve.

Believe they're better off

If you haven't heard the story of the Rainbow Bridge, I highly recommend reading it. I firmly believe Osiris is no longer suffering and is in a better place and that we will reunite. Is it crazy? Probably. Does it help me feel better? Absolutely. If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid.

The most compassionate pet care decision you can make is to know when to let one go.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2013, September 3). BPD and "Best Friends" - Mourning the Loss of a Pet, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 10 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2013/09/bpd-and-best-friends-mourning-the-loss-of-a-pet



Author: Becky Oberg

Georgina
October, 17 2021 at 4:47 am

Please can someone help me. My therapy dog and my best friend of 9 years passed away suddenly of bloat last night and just 4 hours before she was jumping and kissing me and loving me. I can't cope. I want to Kill myself

October, 18 2021 at 10:35 am

Hi Georgina,
I'm sorry to hear that your therapy dog has passed and I understand that it must be a very devastating time for you. Below, I've posted some links to suicide hotlines and other organizations that can help you through this period of mourning. I hope that you can find these resources helpful!
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
To chat online with a national suicide hotline counselor, click here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
See the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
For the hearing impaired, contact the Lifeline by TTY at: 1-800-799-4889
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Other Free Suicide Hotlines
There are other free suicide hotlines in the United States for specific populations as well.
The veterans suicide hotline (Veterans Crisis Line): 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or text to 838255 (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week)
Veterans Crisis Line online chat: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat
Veterans Crisis Line website: http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Suicide Hotline (the Trevor Lifeline): 1-866-488-7386 (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week)
TrevorChat online chat: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now (Available 7 days a week (3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. PT).)
TrevorText text messaging: Text the word "Trevor" to 1-202-304-1200 (Available on Fridays (4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET / 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. PT)
The Trevor Project website: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
Teen suicide hotline (Thursday's Child National Youth Advocacy Hotline): 1-800-USA-KIDS (872-5437) (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week)
Thursday's Child website (lists many additional teen hotlines): http://www.thursdayschild.org/
You Matter website: https://youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Christian Suicide Prevention website: http://www.christiansuicideprevention.com/
For International Suicide Hotline Callers
If you are calling from outside of the United States, these numbers won't be available to you. No matter where you are, though, help is available. Find lists of international suicide hotline numbers at:
The International Association for Suicide Prevention: https://www.iasp.info/index.php
Befrienders Worldwide: http://www.befrienders.org/need-to-talk

Tanya
October, 25 2015 at 2:39 pm

Omg you poor thing....sorry to hear about your rabbit!

Caitlen
May, 9 2015 at 8:01 am

I just went outside to find my dead rabbit I am such a mess right now I don't know what to do I feel like I'm dying :((((

mef123
September, 4 2013 at 12:01 am

I lost my precious dog five years ago, she was very ill and stopped dating, she was 15 years old, which is a good Lon life for a large dog. It sent me spiralling out of control. I ended up in the hospital one month after we put her to sleep. I had three more hospitalizations after that all in a year and half time span. We got a puppy six months after our first dog was put down, what a mistake that was, I hated her most days and wanted to get rid of her then I had my days when I loved her completely. I was cycling. But we kept her and I couldn't imagine my life without her.
But the death of a dog is a real emotional loss. When someone asks me what sent me into the hospital four times and four years of depression and mania and I tell them my dog died they look at me weird. Like its just a dog. But it's not just a dog it's my best friend who loved me unconditionally.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Becky Oberg
September, 7 2013 at 9:55 am

Thank you for sharing your story. People don't understand how hard it is to lose a pet that's a member of the family.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christine
October, 18 2018 at 1:51 pm

I lost my dog unexpectedly on Tuesday. My mind WONT stop thinking about it. I miss him. I feel like even tho I have a family, I want to go with my dog :( My heart is hurting SO MUCH. I never thought about this triggering my fear of abandonment. I remember growing up and going to school, and if my parents animals got dog hair on me, I couldn't throw it away. I would grab the hairs and put them in my backpack. I don't know what I'm going to do without my dog.

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