One of my favorite parts of being a veterinarian is that none of my days are the same. Each day I see different cases, emergencies, and creatures. All of my clients are different and great in their own special way. Most days, I go home to my husband and tell him all about my day. I can promise you he has heard some crazy stories over the years. Most days are full of victories, intrigue, and humor. However, there are some days where I have to ask, “Can I tell you about a tough one?” The tough ones are my losses, my euthanasia cases. The ones that no one really wants to talk about because they are sad and uncomfortable. As a veterinarian, I have the blessing to be able to end my patients’ suffering, but it’s tough. It’s tough on the owners and it’s tough on me. It is because of the silence that typically surrounds these cases that I want to take a minute to talk about them. My hope is that it will shed light on that dark moment to bring some comfort and understanding.
When they have passed, I will tell you that I am sorry for your loss. It took me a long time to figure out what to say at that moment. When I see the pain of your loss – the loss of companionship, of the time you thought you still had, of your best friend – what can I do? I had to figure out a way to keep myself at a small distance. If I let myself feel the full emotion of each patient, I would break. So, in the end, I will simply say that I am sorry for your loss. My hope is that it will give you a small moment of comfort. Some small piece of compassion. Please know that my heart is hurting for you. It hurts every single time. I’ve learned that you will never “get through it”, but with time, you will find your new normal. You will find what life looks like without your friend. I hope that my words help you accomplish that in some small way. Sorrow will come. It always does. Each person has a different way of feeling it and working through it. Please reach out for help if you are struggling. There is no shame in mourning.
Euthanasia is one of the biggest blessings of my career, but it is also one of the hardest parts. I hope that when the time comes for you, you will be able to remember that it is an act of love – nothing less. I love my job. I learn from every case I see, but I think I learn the most about the doctor and person I want to be from the tough ones.
About the Author
Dr. Heritage Enevoldsen