I lost my dog 3 1/2 years ago now. She was 13, had cancer and had been with me her whole life from my mid-teens. For the last few years of her life, we were together virtually all the time, she was my anchor point during my formative years and my reason for living during my most difficult times. I was devastated when she died, but nowadays I feel able to live my life without her. Although I no longer think of her every single day, I am by no means "over" her death, and I don't ever expect this to be the case.

The problem I am having is that my partner wants for us to have children, I have very conflicting feelings about whether or not I want children, and I believe the main reasons for this are connected into how I feel about my dogs death. For example, I feel terrified that my child might die and that I won't be able to cope, I also feel there is a very real risk that I won't love my child. I also feel awful that I am allowing my grief to prevent me from being able to live my life.

I wanted to reach out to see if there was anyone who had similar experiences following the loss of a pet who might be able to offer any suggestions.

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Hi, Anna. I can relate a lot to this, but I should add that I have almost always felt this way. I love my nieces and nephews, I like to be around kids, but only when I can return them to their parents. There was a brief time in my life when I wanted a kid so desperately, but just because my Schatzy and I were so close and he was so sweet and funny, that it made me wonder if a human being could be that awesome.

I lost Nala 10 days ago to cancer. When she was sick, I kept saying again and again that I will never have children. Nala was almost 5 years old when she passed. It got me questioning myself the same questions you posted: what if my child gets sick? What if my child dies? To the first question, thanks to Nala and Schatzy now I know that I would be a great mom, but to the latter... I just don't know if I would be able to live with that.

The easy part with me is that I'm single. The hard part is that I'm in my mid thirties and I'm running out of time. I've been a spoiled child myself all my life. I still am. I needed to stop being so selfish and reckless, I needed to grow up and maybe there's still more work I have to do on myself before I can commit to another human being the way you commit to a child. So... maybe you need to seek professional help to find why you really don't want to have kids.

Has it always been like this? Some women just don't want to have children and that's fine! You say you think you wouldn't love your child, but you didn't say why. Myabe you're not ready, maybe you're going through a very complicated grief or maybe you're one of those persons who don't want to have kids. A dog provides such kind of love and companionship, no human being could ever compare to, but that's precisely the point: there's no comparisson.

A child would make you struggle a lot and at the same time it could bring you lots of joy and pride when they do something very special. A child could call you mom, hug you, defy you, yell at you, then have a nice surprise to say I'm sorry... the joy when they accomplish something, the laughter when they say something funny. It's literally the whole package. But sometimes it's worth it.

I believe, like me, you saw in your dog some kind of brother and confidant, not really a child. This could be something to think about. But when it comes to sickness, no one can predict the furture, thought there is something for humans, saldy dogs don't have: developing technology to cure diseases. There are a lot of therapies and treatments humans can have, the life expectation is increasing and the possibilities of a child overcoming almost every illness there is, are high nowadays.

So, it's been some time since you lost your dog and I would honestly recommend seeking for professional help. And believe me, I almost never suggest such things. But you have to analyze wheter you don't like/want children or if your grief is making you feel this way. And if deep down inside of you, you know you wouldn't want a kid even if your dog was still around, then you should tell your partner that you're just not the kind of woman who lives to become a mom.

I'm here for you if you want to talk about this further. Best wishes.
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Thanks for your response Alexa. I'm sorry your Nala was taken from you at such a young age, its such a shame. Take care of yourself, its early days so make sure to take the time you need for yourself x

I would not say I was ever really that desperate to have children, but I certainly never had the anxieties that I do now about it before losing my dog. I had other anxieties about things like giving birth and my ability to parent which haven't changed, but I think becoming a parent is not something that anyone ever feels entirely relaxed about or ready for. I understand at a logical level that my fears about illness are not very rational, but it doesn't seem to make me any less anxious.

You are right in that I didnt think of my dog as my baby, but I did see her as a being I had complete responsibility for. As a teenager I lost my mother, and I am certain that losing my dog has been a much harder grieving process. Having never lost a child, I can't compare it to that, but I think there are similarities. Rationally I know that she was not my child, that she was old, that I did everything I could, that she was a dog etc etc, but I feel that my grief comes from how I loved her and the relationship i have lost and not from what she was or what happened to her.

I guess i would say i feel that I won't love my child because of my loss for the same reasons I cannot have so deep a relationship with another dog. We have got a new dog since she died (as a companion for my other dog), but I have not allowed myself to become attached to him in the same way. This is fine with me, because he is a dog and I know I love him enough to meet his needs, but I know that a more superficial relationship like this with a child is not an option (or at least not a healthy one!). So I guess I feel this because I worry I won't be able to allow myself to love my child, but also because maybe its something that will happen subconsciously as my body/mind tries to protect itself. I have always been afraid of post natal depression and I am very aware of the importance of the mother-child bond in early infancy.

Professional help is something I considered in the first year, but at the time I decided that my grieving process was progressing in a healthy manner. Now I live on a remote island so this is not something I can access in my area, I don't know if you know of anything available online. Unfortunately I don't really have money available for therapy either.

I guess I feel that the feelings of anxiety, sadness etc I have around this are still within the realms of normal. Its like my body feels it has lost a child regardless of how I try to rationalise it, so it makes send to me that considering having "another" child is something stressful, I just don't know how to do what I know is right for my family without letting these feelings override everything else. I guess its more that the idea of children makes me anxious, terrified and so very full of grief more than that its something I don't want if that makes sense.
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It all makes perfect sense, at least to me, though I never protect myself so much. I've lost 4 dogs by now, each and every single one of them was incredibly special to me and I have loved them all the same. To me, loving a dog and giving them my best, is the most amazing thing I've ever experienced. I honestly want to write a book called "The dogs that changed my life", because all of them have made me a better person.

After losing my first boy, Schatzy, I decided to adopt Nala to give something back to the universe, like in some kind of gratitude for everything Schatzy taught me. I have never tried to close my heart to anyone, but I live with someone who does: my mother, a woman who lost her husband when I was 3 or 4 and never got married again. I barely remember my dad and she didn't speak of him for a very long time, but everytime she does, her eyes fill with tears until this day, so I can understand a bit of what you're feeling.

Post natal depression and giving birth have always made me anxious too. As I've told my friends and family, it's not the responsibility of taking care of another human being for the rest of my life, it's pregnancy and the hormones all out of whack, it's giving birth and then having my hormones go crazy again. I already know my hormones make me crazy from time to time, so... I'm terrified what it would be like to go through that rollercoaster.

I know about a few websites about mental health, like psych central and tiny buddah. Both have helped me through a lot. Psych central offers online therapy, but if you can't afford it, maybe it's just time for you to become your own therapist, after all, the best therapy will a,ways help you find your own answers and solutions. Search on youtube everything you can about grief, letting go, and learning to love again, you'll find ted talks, guided meditations, hypnosis and all kind of stuff. Meditation is an amazing way to deal with grief, but there are some incredibly helpful ted talks too. Search the web for these same topics, you'll find something helpful eventually. Btw, psych central has a lot of quizzes, a couple especially about grief, maybe you can give them a try.

For now, talk to your partner. Communication is key in relationships. I had to turn down a proposal when my ex boyfriend told me he wanted to have kids right away. I'm sure your partner will understand and even may try to help you if you explain to him what you've explained here. Tell him you need time to feel at least sure that you'll do your best and that you need to learn more about giving birth and post natal depression. Remember that we only feel what we don't know, learning about that may help you feel a little less anxious or even make a better decision. But by any means, take your time. No person who's grieving should be pressured to do anything.

In the mean time, you could try and open your heart to your new dog. You already know that the only way he's going to break your heart is by leaving this world. There's a ted talked named why dogs don't live longer that may help you prevent your others dog from being victims of that horrible illness. And please please, remember that your dog lived a long life filled with your love and in your company, she wouldn't want you to be sad, she wouldn't want you to feel unable to love another being. There are lots of videos on youtube that say that dogs would want their owners to even adopt an unloved pet after their gone. And you know what? I guess that's true. After all, dogs are pure love. You already have a new dog, so, you won't lose anything by just trying.

The most important thing is that you heal, that you find your peace and you can make your decision, whether is having a child or not. It is up to you and only you. So, take your time, do some research and try to overcome this grief. Again, dogs' lives are dedicated to make us happy, so in order to honor your dog's memory, do your best to find happiness and peace again!

I'll be here for you, just be patient cause I'm also trying to cope with this and after some days in denial, it's finally sinking in, which makes me happy because my grief is finally going in the right direction. Lots of love.
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I would like to try some thoughts on what you wrote there.

I am an old woman of 61 and never had any children but I had my dog Max. It had been a devastating experience to lose him.

Nevertheless, there is a difference between having a dog and having children and I dont mean concerning the amount of love we feel for either one of them. You see, it is all too clear that we will outlive our fur babies, which is painful when we lose them but also very necessary because they would be completely lost without us. Having a child means to live the normal circle of life for us humans as children definitely outlive us. (And it is statistically extremely rare that our children die before us).

It is therefore our duty and our act of love, so I personally see this, that we as their parents do everything possible to promote them into independency. We actually prepare our children on their way of growing up to live without us. We cannot do this with a dog.

It goes without saying that you will be anxious with a child, every mother is but there is also the joy and the pride and such wonderful times. I dont think it is easy - but life isn't altogether. It takes courage to live because with the joy there is always the sorrow. And this is good because without sorrow we would not even know what joy is all about.

Anna, just take your time in making your decisions. The wish to have a child is absolutely and only your decision - as long as you have your doupts just wait. Please dont let anyone push you into something you dont really feel. I am very sure you will make the decision that feels good and right for you.

Silvia (with Max forever in my heart)


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Honestly, the choice to have children is your own. It takes two people to make a child , and BOTH need to be okay with it. How you feel is your choice, sometimes there is no right or wrong way to feel. But with that said, here are some things you may want to consider.

Yes, the bonds we have with our pets can be quite strong and similar to what a mother feels for her own child. But having your own human baby is very different from having an animal baby. Just by the nature of it, the impact will be different in your life. Your relationship with your own child will touch so many different areas of your life in comparison to a pet.

When a woman gives birth, powerful bonding hormones are released at that time. It’s nature’s way of guaranteeing that we take care of our young. That bond is so strong at birth, it is very difficult to overcome those feelings. Many people either have or know someone who has a lousy parent. But I can guarantee you that at the time of birth, that mother did not feel a lack of love. How people end up parenting, what kind of mother you would be, that is your own choice. You choose your actions, you choose to love or not love. That power is in your hands.

Have you ever heard the expression, the only way out is through? Sometimes we keep our own grief and sad feelings alive by choosing not to resolve them, by not working our way through it to allow ourselves to open up to love again. We keep ourselves in a painful state and withhold good from our ownselves out of fear. It takes bravery to love someone else knowing that our hearts are likely to be broken in some way down the road.

But, could you imagine if you had never had your lost dog? You would never have known her, never have experienced that love. You would have gone your whole life never knowing that the possibility of something so beautiful could exist... because of fear. What kind of life is that? A life lived in fear is no life, because you are not living, you are not experiencing the human journey. Loss IS painful. But it is the realistic circle of life. It comes to everyone at some point. When it comes to you, and you look back at your life, will it be empty of love and relationship? A blank slate that was never written on? Or will it be rich and full of all the beautiful love you got to experience because you were brave enough to live and to love?

The choice is yours. Having a life of love does not necessarily mean needing to have children. But many would say that is a significant part of being a human. I think every parents fears to a certain extent the negative things that could happen to their child. You fear it too, based on your words. But do you know what that is a sign of? It is a sign of love. You love your child, so you worry about the harm that could come to them. That means you already love that potential child of yours, to worry so much about what ifs.

My encouragement to you is to not deny yourself love in your life because of fear, whether it comes from children, other pets, or who knows what source. We cannot stop loss or difficult moments from happening in our lives, no matter how much we try to shield ourselves. But we can choose to have love amongst that.

I read above that you lost your mom at a young age. I’m sure that in some ways, that may have a bearing on your feelings... Maybe talk to someone about everything you’re going through and have been through. Having that listening ear can make a huge difference... especially considering that most daughters turn to their mothers to discuss these things.

I hope you’re able to get what you need from someone here. I hope many good things for you on your journey.
—Loving Riley, Rosy & Axl always 🐾

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RileysMom wrote:

I think every parents fears to a certain extent the negative things that could happen to their child. You fear it too, based on your words. But do you know what that is a sign of? It is a sign of love. You love your child, so you worry about the harm that could come to them. That means you already love that potential child of yours, to worry so much about what ifs.

Thanks RileysMom, this is so much help to me right here. I had always thought my fear was a sign that I was too self-centered and focused on myself to love my child, but looking at it this way makes so much more sense and makes it so much easier to accept my fears and forgive myself for them.

Thank you xx
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Purzel wrote:

It is therefore our duty and our act of love, so I personally see this, that we as their parents do everything possible to promote them into independency. We actually prepare our children on their way of growing up to live without us. We cannot do this with a dog.

Thanks for this Purzel, this is really helpful. Focusing on the bigger picture like this brings me a lot of peace and hope.

I read some of your stories about Max, my dog was a lab mix, labbies are the sweetest dogs aren't they. I hope you are feeling more at peace now. Hugs.
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Alexa29 wrote:
Again, dogs' lives are dedicated to make us happy, so in order to honor your dog's memory, do your best to find happiness and peace again!

I'll be here for you, just be patient cause I'm also trying to cope with this and after some days in denial, it's finally sinking in, which makes me happy because my grief is finally going in the right direction. Lots of love.

Thank you Alexa for bringing this thought to the front of my mind, it helps to try and focus on that. Thank you also for all your suggestions, I'll look those up for sure.

I guess for me I feel like I have an option with dogs (and the other animals I have) as to how close I get to them, and there is probably a point beyond which it only benefits me while they are alive and then comes back to bite me when I lose them. I do love the new dog we got, and I give him just as much of my time and attention as my other dog who I have had from before my old dog died. But I just don't want to feel the same depth of connection to the new guy, because I know there is a limit to how much pain I can stand I guess.

For me the depth of connection I have with a dog comes from the training I do with them, with my old dog I did obedience and agility training, and after 10 years of that we knew everything about each other, what every move of every muscle meant, every expression, every hesitation, every noise, everything. The big dog I still have now is a livestock guarding breed, she has 2 modes - squidgy snuggle cushion and unstoppable death machine. Training her compared to training "normal" breeds is like trying to train a donkey to dance, so I have had to learn her in great detail in order to make it possible for her to live the life I needed her to. The little new guy is just a harmless scrappy mixed breed, and my partner has trained him the basics he needed, our life is a lot more static these days so he needs to learn a lot less.

I can understand the whole range I guess, from people who literally have 1 dog and then never again to people who can never live without a dog so they never have to experience the total absence of that connection.

Maybe for me this depth of connection is only something I want to make with a human or an animal who lives a really long time!

Another thing I worry about is what it would be like when my big dog dies if I have had a child by then. When my old dog died the only things I were able to achieve was what my big dog needed from me, and being a dog and not a kid in reality that wasn't a huge amount. It nearly cost me my relationship and I'm afraid that I wouldn't be able to give my child what they needed while processing my own grief. I guess I kind of trust my mama instincts to get me through, no matter what happens my animals always get the care they need from me, but it still worries me.

I hope you still feel like you are making progress, hugs xx
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