A reader writes: Hello. I'm writing to you because my daughter's dog Sadie was savagely attacked and torn up by 2 big dogs this past Sunday night. These local news reports give the details of this terrible tragedy:
Sadie, an 8 year Husky, attacked and killed while being walked
Dog dead, family reeling after vicious attack
My daughter can't stop crying. I think both she and her boyfriend are in shock. Would you be able to say a few words to them? I just found your site and I'm sending her a poem from your Comfort for Grieving Animal Lovers page.
They really need someone to talk to, if you could help in any way. Thank you so much.
My response: Dear Debbie, your mom has alerted me to your tragic story, and my heart aches for you and Travis as I read of the savage attack that resulted in the horrific death of your beloved Sadie. I am so sorry that the life of your precious companion was taken so brutally.
In addition to the pain of grief and loss, given the awful circumstances of Sadie’s death, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am especially concerned about Travis, since he was so involved (and injured) in this awful nightmare. As a grief counselor, I can tell you that, before either of you can begin to do any effective grief work, it is very important that these issues be addressed first.
You might consider calling your local hospital or hospice, or asking your primary care physician for a referral to someone who specializes in PTSD, where treatment includes simple tools (relaxation, breath work, meditation and guided imagery) to help each of you master and calm the troublesome symptoms you may be experiencing now, such as vivid memories and flashbacks.
All of these people . . . were helped, in differing ways, by strategic doses of applied imagination. In each instance, what got them through was imagery, sometimes guided by a therapist, sometimes by an audio program, and at other times spontaneously generated from within . . . These imagery-based solutions use the right hemisphere of the brain – perception, sensation, emotion, and movement – rather than the left side’s standard cognitive functions of thinking, analyzing, verbalizing, and synthesizing. And that’s why they work. Trauma produces changes in the brain that impede a person’s ability to think and talk about the event[s] but that actually accentuate their capacity for imaging and emotional-sensory experiencing around it. Imagery uses what’s most accessible in the traumatized brain to help with the healing . . . But too few survivors know this and, sadly, too few professionals as well. So people are not only baffled and alarmed by their symptoms; they are more often than not seeking – and getting – the wrong kind of help from people accustomed to using discussion, thinking, and language – help that often misfires. It’s not that talk therapy is bad. The emotional support of a sympathetic listener is as critically important as it ever was. It’s just that it’s not enough by itself . . . (pp. 12-13)
Healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD help - Health Journeys
Combat Insomnia - How to Overcome Sleeplessness - Help for Insomnia - Health Journeys
See also Elena Flores-Breese's website, Still Blooming Me, "where other survivors struggling with PTSD can find support, inspiration and hope."
As for healing from this tragic incident, I can only tell you that what you are feeling right now is a normal reaction to the loss of a treasured member of your family, along with the stress associated with such a traumatic death and the anger you must be feeling toward the owner of the dogs who attacked your Sadie. Somehow you must find a way to feel and express those reactions in a healthy way.
I hope that you will spend some time reading some of the Pet Loss Articles I've posted here on my blog, because the more you understand about the normal grief process, the less "crazy" you will feel, the more you will know what to expect and the better able you will be to handle your own reactions to Sadie's death. You're also most welcome to participate in our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups, which includes a forum for Loss of a Pet, giving you the opportunity to share your story and connect with others whose experiences may be similar to your own.
I hope this information helps, Debbie. There is a world of help “out there” just waiting for you to find it. Know that you are not alone, and I don't think you should be trying to manage all of this by yourself. You and Travis deserve the support, comfort and understanding that professional counseling can provide, and I hope you will think of it as a gift you can give to yourself.
Please accept my heartfelt sympathy for your tragic loss, and know that I am thinking of you.
Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.
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- My Marathon Towards Healing by Elena Flores-Breese
- Anxiety Attacks in Grief: Tools for Coping
- How We Mourn: Understanding Our Differences
- Pet Loss: A Disenfranchised Grief