Many people do not experience the stages in the order listed below, which is okay. It's helpful to look at them as guides in the grieving process which helps you understand and put into context where you are.
1. Denial and Isolation "The first reaction is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain."
Your first reaction is that your bird is going to come back. Elvis was a shoulder bird. He was always on our shoulders. Once we found him again it was just a matter of waiting until he came down and then he would be at home again and everything would continue as normal.
2. Anger "As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Rationally, we know other people or things are not to be blamed."
For me, it was anger at the neighbour. If she hadn't come over, the door would have never been open. If she had just gone to the side door when I asked her to, the door would've been closed to where the birds were.Then the anger turns inward: You are angry at what you did to cause this. If you had've done this or that differently, it wouldn't have happened. You start re-living every moment and try to do it differently, hoping for another outcome. I was thinking I should've closed the door, went and put the birds back in their cages, and then come back to the door. Or if I'd just closed the door in her face and went to the side door and called her from there...
3. Bargaining "The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control."
I felt as long as I kept looking for him, as long as I kept talking to people and putting up ads, he would come home. If I was sleeping when he was still out there, I had to be out looking for him. For the first two weeks, I hardly slept at all. I told myself I wouldn't sleep until he was home. In this stage you may also look to your faith or hope that someone will bring him home.
4. Depression "Two types of depression are associated with grief. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words."This is where this site comes in. What do I do? Is he going to come back? Am I supposed to be looking for him or waiting for a phone call? Is he dead? People are not really that good at "kind words" when you lose your bird. Many people you talk to will give you the myths: "He won't survive", "Cats or hawks will get him", "Domestic birds don't know what to eat in the wild", "No pet birds survive the winter", "Oh sorry to hear, but he's gone". These are all myths. Birds come down. He CAN survive.
"The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell."This is where the crying comes in. Where you finally catch up on your sleep because there's no point getting out of bed anymore. You realize he hasn't come home and probably isn't going to. You realize he's either dead or in someone else's hands. You stop looking.
5. Acceptance: "This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression."
This is where you come to accept your bird is NOT coming back. He is either dead, or someone else has him. This is also where you take the ad down and stop looking. It's a time where you need your sanity back and you have to go on with your life and not think about it so much. I've talked to people about their birds a while after they'd lost them, and they had a weird sense that seemed to me like they didn't care. They had just got to this phase that the bird wasn't coming back so why look for it. This is where this site, the Parrot Alert site and kijiji ads are helpful. They do the work for you but you have to make sure they are still up. If you move and change your phone number, be sure to let us know as well. Even though you can't do it anymore, we are still looking and finding birds outside. And we need to know who you are and what you are missing so when we find one, we can also find you.
My own experience
I think I went through a lot of these stages back and forth because of the circumstances. I know I had extreme anger when I replied to a kijiji ad of someone who had found a bird. He said he took it to the local pet store. I called the pet store to see what they did, and they said they just re-sell it. I was appalled they weren't even going to look for the owner! This is when I called Animal Control and found out their policy was they only keep the birds for 72hrs and then "re-home them." I think my anger that day drove me to make this site and change things, so when someone finds Elvis, I WILL get him back.
At another point after I had given up hope, I got a phone call that Elvis had been spotted- almost a month after he left! I tried and tried to find him and almost gave up again when I heard his whistle! I got to whistle back and forth to him for 3 days until he was no longer in that spot.
"The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief" by Julie Axelrod was taken from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/
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