All Creatures Great and Small – A Reflection on Grieving for a Pet

This week turned out to be a tough week. On Wednesday afternoon a treasured pet passed away in a rather traumatic freak accident – traumatic to our dear Coco, who really did suffer in his last moments, and to myself and my teenage son, who tried our very best to save him but were sadly unable to do anything to alter the outcome. I’m not going to dwell on the actual death here, it haunts me enough as it is. The combination of such a horrible thing happening with the loss of such a vibrant little presence has left me bereft and floundering. I’ve had pets pass away before and been deeply affected every time, but Coco was our first inside pet, and it seems different. I feel his absence, constantly, the house is so quiet and I had gotten used to his constant chatter.

Coco was a bird. A small Conure who was a vibrant green, blue and red. What he lacked in size he made up for in personality. He was such a clever little mimic, mastering words and saying them within the correct context. He could also call like a cockatoo and a galah, mimicking the birds from outside. He loved fruit, particularly berries and melon, and licking the milk off of cornflakes, and boy did he love to drink apricot nectar. He would madly chase around a rattling cat ball, fight with his toys, and he adored having a shower. His presence was a constant, calling and chattering each time the front door opened, each time the kettle was boiled, each time I went to prepare the dog’s food. He was only ever really quiet when he was asleep. He absolutely loved being scratched and petted. He was a people bird, happiest when he was on a shoulder and sharing your bird friendly food.

I was never a bird person, to be honest. I tried hard to discourage my son from getting a bird, but he was adamant and demonstrated his interest in birds well enough that in the end I gave in. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like birds, I love them, out in the wild, flying free, but I have been afraid of birds for my whole life, the legacy of being attacked by my nanna’s cockatoo at a young age. The flapping was enough to make me prickle with sweat. But Coco cured me of this fear, with his big chirpy voice and his even bigger sassy attitude. In just over a year, I came to adore that little creature.

It’s really not the size of the pet, or the type of animal that defines the degree of loss. It’s the impact that pet has made on your life, the space you’ve given over to it within your heart. Coco’s death has devastated me. Part of this is tied to not being able to save him for my son, that helplessness that exists when you can’t spare your child from pain and loss. The other part is a lot simpler: I just miss Coco. I loved him, and now he’s gone. And getting over that is going to take some time. When you’ve invested time and energy into an animal, been its primary carer and the recipient of its affection for any length of time, it doesn’t matter how great or small that pet was, the loss is still profound.

Despite the grief I’m feeling now, knowing Coco was worth it. Every second of it. And I know that I will always remember and forever miss this beautiful little bird who cured my lifelong fear of feathers and beaks.

For further reading on grieving for animals, visit this insightful article by Josephine Moon.

24 thoughts on “All Creatures Great and Small – A Reflection on Grieving for a Pet

  1. I’m so sorry for you and your families loss. You’re right, it’s definitely worth it, they bring us so much joy and teach us about unconditional love and so much more. Sending love and hugs to you and your family xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh my dear Theresa, my heart is breaking for you on the loss of your beautiful Coco. We wordsmiths like to think we can convey meaning perfectly but, in times like this, words are simply not enough. Know that I am thinking of you and sending love and strength your way. I like to meditate every night before bed and every morning when I wake and you will be in my thoughts so I hope you feel my [virtual] hugs and gain some comfort from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dearest Theresa, I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved friend Coco. What a beautiful bird and a dear companion. Sending many hugs to you and your son at this time. Go gently on yourselves and each other. All my love, Kim xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Theresa,
    I’m very sorry for the loss you and your family have been through, and also for the particular trauma of the loss.
    Birds can be the most adorable pets, as I discovered when my daughter wanted a bird for her 10th birthday. Her cockatiel whistled in delight whenever we came home, nibbled ever so gently on our earlobes, and tucked her sweet head against our faces and chests for cuddles. She was extremely affectionate and loving, as it sounds like your dear Coco was. We were so sad when she had to be put down with an incurable disease … the whole house felt hollow without her. I was on the verge of tears (or in tears) for days. Yet she was ‘just a bird’. But not just a bird.
    I hope your son is managing with the support of the family, and I hope you too are okay. It’s wonderful that you loved Coco so much and appreciated her so well. Sending many good wishes,
    Fiona xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Fiona, for sharing your own story. I really appreciate it. I know exactly what you mean about the ‘just a bird’ concept. Until we had Coco, I honestly had no idea what adorable pets birds were. And how loving they could be. He made a big impact on all of us. I’ve appreciated hearing from other bird owners over the last few days who all seem to know exactly how we’re feeling. Thank you. xo


  5. I’m sorry I missed this Theresa. My nearly 99-year-old father went into hospital on 1 March so my life has been hectic. I’ve managed to get a few posts out, but there’s been little time for reading books or other people’s posts. All this is to say I’m sorry I didn’t comment on this earlier. It’s a lovely post about a dearly loved pet. I loved that Coco cured you of your fear of feathers and beaks. Must say I’ve always been uncertain of birds too, though we did have budgies as pets when I was a child.

    Anyhow, so sorry you have this loss in your life. Tell your son too that there a lot of people who understand the loss you are feeling. Pets are very special.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thank you for your thoughts Sue, they’re much appreciated and I’ll pass them on to my son. I still feel the lack of Coco’s presence early in the mornings when it used to just be me with him. Such a little character.

      I hope your father is doing okay. 99, what a grand age!

      Liked by 1 person

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