Losing a pet is one of the most difficult things a person can experience. Whether the loss of a pet is sudden, or something you’ve anticipated for weeks or months, it is a highly emotional time. The bonds we forge with our pets are powerful. Their love for us is unfaltering, and they have a way of making us feel better even on our worst days — which makes the loss of a pet that much more difficult. Losing a pet can be just as heartbreaking as losing a human friend or family member. The companionship and loyalty of your pet is special and unmatched, so it’s understandable to experience difficulty coping with your loss. As with other losses though, living without your pet will get easier over time. The important thing is to take care of yourself and let the grieving process run its course while also honoring your pet’s special love.
THE POWER OF PET RELATIONSHIPS
Our pet relationships are among the most powerful in our entire lives. They offer:
- Significant emotional support
- Mental health benefits
- Unwavering companionship
- Love for our children and other family members
GRIEVING THE LOSS OF A PET
The grief from losing a beloved pet can be overwhelming. It’s also an extremely delicate situation for any children you might have in your family. Consider the following steps after your pet makes their transition:
- Explain your pet’s loss to young children in a way they’ll understand. Death is unfortunately a natural part of life, so it’s important to be honest with your child. It may be tempting to protect your child’s feelings by telling them their pet simply went away, but this will create more heartache, guilt, and confusion in the long run. Be honest but gentle with your child’s feelings and let them know how much your pet’s loss is hurting you right now, too.
- Allow you and your family to grieve. The loss of a pet can be a traumatic time. There’s no reason why you and your family should be expected to “move on.” Give your family as much time as they need to grieve and reach out for additional help if needed.
- Make room for expressing your emotions. There’s no doubt that losing a pet will make you sad. Despair, guilt, and other emotions may also arise as your new reality of life without your pet starts to sink in. Rather than trying to be strong and dismiss your emotions, allow yourself to express them. Keeping a journal during this critical time can also help.
- Create a service or other ceremony to honor your pet. Whether it’s a funeral or other ceremony, honoring your pet’s memory can offer you and your family a sense of closure. Involve your children if possible, allowing them to say a few words or creating a memorial.
- Maintain your other pets’ schedules. If you have any other pets, they might grieve over the loss of their companion, too. You might notice sluggishness, decreased appetite, or a loss of interest in their normal activities. It’s important to maintain your pets’ feeding schedules and offer them extra love.
- Reach out for support. Connecting with friends and relatives can make a significant impact on your emotional well-being following the loss of your pet. Don’t be afraid to reach out — simply having them listen can make you feel better as you work through your feelings.
- Consider finding a pet support group. Ask your veterinarian about pet support groups in your area. Such get-togethers offer an opportunity to be in the company of others who can truly empathize with your loss.
Talk to a therapist. A talk therapist or psychotherapist can help you work through your feelings and find ways to cope with the loss of your pet. Having this type of support is especially helpful in cases of depression. Some psychotherapists also specialize in working with teens, while play therapists may help younger children work through their emotions.
Recovering from the loss of your pet is also dependent on additional steps that go beyond the initial grief process. Consider the following steps that can help you cope as more time goes by:
- Make a donation to your favorite animal charity in honor of your pet.
Create a memory book of your pet. You’re likely to have numerous photos of your pet on your phone, social media pages, or computer. But having a tangible memory book or photo album can be more comforting than digitized items. Plus, the very act of putting the book together can help you embrace the memories with your beloved pet and become an act of healthy closure.
- Help other pets. Volunteering with a rescue or at a local shelter can make you feel good and provide a sense of purpose, especially if you do so in the name of your pet. Animal organizations are always looking for help, including dog walking, cat cuddling, crate cleanings, administrative work, and more. Even if you can’t dedicate your time, you can collect items instead.
- Practice ongoing self-care. It’s important to continue the self-care methods you practiced after the initial loss of your pet over the long-term. In turn, you’ll be happier and healthier. Make sure to exercise and eat a healthy diet. Put aside a little bit of time each day for quiet de-stressing activities, such as meditating or reading a book.
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Grief counselors are trained to help you cope with major losses in your life and pets are no exception. Look for a psychotherapist who’s experienced in pet losses — they can help you create an action plan for coping in the long-term.
You do not need to face this alone. The trained Pet Compassion Careline Grief Counselors understand how impactful the loss of a beloved pet can be and are available to offer complimentary support and counsel. 24/7 care is available. Please call The Pet Compassion Careline at 855-245-8214 to speak with a counselor today.
We care and understand. Please accept our heartfelt sympathy from all of us at Hounds in Pounds.