I think that one of the hardest jobs here at Birdtricks is consoling owners whose birds have died. I don’t envy the ladies in customer service – sometimes it is heart wrenching.
Often people contact us because they need a shoulder to cry on – we all know how hard it is to find anyone who understands the way we love our birds. Sometimes it helps to communicate with people who you know won’t make little of your grief.
Perhaps the hardest is the contact with people whose own errors in judgment have resulted in the loss of their bird, or have in some way caused it suffering. There is guilt – and you can feel its weight on them.
The cruelest emotion of all is regret. Knowing that you are responsible for something that has happened, seeing in your mind exactly where you went wrong and being unable to call that action back. It doesn’t matter how many people remind you that it was an accident and tell not to be hard on yourself because you didn’t know what the outcome would be, in your heart you know it was preventable and there is no forgiving yourself.
I have been there and have wrestled (and lost) with the words ”if only”. This post is about the unproductiveness of guilt.
We all make mistakes. We all forget to do things. We all use bad judgment at times. All of us.
I got word last week that a friend and a fellow bird owner lost her beloved goffins cockatoo because she neglected to padlock the cage before she left for work. She came home to an empty cage and eventually located her bird, dead from poisoning, beneath the kitchen sink.
She said that she had been preoccupied with a problem at work and her mind was not on her bird’s safety as she left the house. She vows to never own a bird again. She no longer considers herself a fit owner. I disagree and told her so.
If all she takes away from her experience with her bird is guilt, she is under-valuing its life. I know for a fact that her life with her bird had been a journey of learning and happiness and I know that her bird had a great life with her.
The manner in which her bird died is a tragedy. But I feel she should be grieving her bird’s loss, not her part in it. There is no gain in that thinking, only further loss.
I’m not sure whether forgiving yourself gives you the freedom to learn from your mistakes or whether personal growth allows for forgiveness. All I know for certain is that without both only negative things remain.
Even though this post has caused me to revisit some painful events with my birds, I choose to be thankful for the learning experiences that they have presented me with. I am eternally grateful for the small creatures that have pushed me to better myself which in turn helps me to be better to them. I have forgiven myself for my mistakes.
If you have lost a bird, or one became injured in your care, please share how you moved past it and how you grew to be a better bird owner because of it.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.