Mrs. Melancholia and Her Long Lost Noodle: Dealing With Grief in Vet Medicine
Mrs. Melancholia hasn’t had a pet in months, yet her husband continues to call me about Noodle, their seventeen year-old Dachshund. Noodle died over the Thanksgiving weekend but Mrs. Melancholia is still "obsessed," according to her husband, with gloomy thoughts about death and Noodle’s "untimely" demise.
He’s concerned. And exasperated. He thinks I might have some advice to give her. I have called her. I’ve discussed the validity of her feelings and the possibility of seeing a member of the clergy of her church or attending a pet loss support group. She’s declined.
Mrs. Melancholia is embarrassed by my suggestion—she thinks it’s crazy to be so upset over the death of a dog, even one she loved so much. Grief counseling after the death of a pet seems "New-Agey" and patently ridiculous. "I didn’t get this way when my mother died so this is not grief!" she claims.
Mrs. Melancholia prefers to concentrate on Noodle’s actual medical condition and how his cancer, lymphoma, could have caused his death so quickly. "He was fine one day, then I took him to the hospital, and the next day he was gone." She cannot accept that this was a natural death. She believes that her sadness is related to the manner of his passing.
Anger, as we all know, is an integral part of the grieving process. But when it happens to you it’s not so easy to identify. You expect to feel different, but our feelings are as complex as the process that led to Noodle’s lymphoma. We just don’t understand it yet—and perhaps never will.