Grieving the Loss of a Beloved Pet: Tips for Coping
For many pet owners, they know the sheer joy of getting a new puppy or kitten and the agony of loss and grief that we feel when they pass. Whether it was through something quick and unexpected like an injury or illness, or they simply have outlived their years here on the planet, we still can be shattered by their departure.
Our beloved companions are more than “just a dog” or “just a cat,” they’re like members of our family and dealing with this type of grief and sorrow is completely normal. The grieving process is different for everyone, but it is something that we have to endure nonetheless. Here are some tips for dealing with this type of tragedy.
FRIENDS & FAMILY
Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends for support, especially those who have pets or are animal lovers themselves. They will likely understand how you feel and should be able to help you cope. But here’s a few things that you shouldn’t do:
- Don’t let anyone devalue your loss or tell you how you should feel
- If someone tells you to “get over it” or “move on” - then you should move on - to someone else for support
- Don’t neglect yourself since the stress of losing a loved one can interfere with your health
- In the same way, if you have other pets, be sure to stick to your regular routine of feeding, exercising, spending time with them, etc. since they are likely grieving too
Well meaning friends and family can offer you advice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to accept it; for example, some may tell you to get another pet immediately. But if you’re not ready, then you’re simply not ready. Maybe you’ll get another animal in six months or a year, perhaps you’ll never get another pet, but that decision is yours to make.
RITUALS & MEMORIALS
Things like a funeral service or memorial can help you, your friends and family deal with this type of loss and offer everyone some closure. If someone tells you that it’s inappropriate or ridiculous to have a funeral for an animal, you should simply ignore them and do what you feel is best.
Planting a tree in their honor, preparing a scrapbook and even purchasing a personalized memento of your animal can also help with the healing process. Once the initial sting of losing your best friend has lessened, sometimes it’s nice to simply share memories and stories of the good times you shared.
If your grief is persistent and significant enough that it interferes with your ability to function normally, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Your doctor or other mental health professional may need to evaluate you for depression or anxiety due to your loss.
There’s other support available out there in the form of grief counseling groups, pet loss support groups, online message boards, there are even pet loss hotlines.
You know what they always say, it’s going to take some time. Although there is sometimes little comfort available in this solution, it is often what works in the long run. Peace be with you during your time of loss and may the sun shine brightly over the Rainbow Bridge.
Article by Amber Kingsley