I wanted to write this blog for anyone going through the grieving process when a beloved pet dies. We've all been there I think, at least all of us who have loved an animal. In particular, a friend of mine and his wife have been grieving for their dog for a while now, and I always tell him there is no timetable and you have to heal in your own time. I dedicate this one to them, and I hope they find it helpful, and I hope you do.
A pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat,” but rather a beloved member of our family. I remember when my cat Dusty died, I was devastated, and my aunt in particular was so unsympathetic and did not understand how someone could cry over an animal. When a pet dies, it’s normal to feel devastated by grief and loss.
The pain of loss can often feel overwhelming and trigger all sorts of painful and difficult emotions. You should never feel guilty or ashamed about grieving for an animal friend. While we all respond to loss differently, the level of grief you experience will often depend on factors such as your age and personality, the age of your pet, and the circumstances of their death. Generally, the more significant your pet was to you, the more intense the emotional pain you’ll feel. If you lived alone and the pet was your only companion, coping with their loss can be even harder. And another thing a lot of people don't take into consideration, but if you were unable to afford expensive veterinary treatment to prolong your pet’s life, you may even feel a tremendous sense of guilt.
Like the grief we feel for our friends and loved ones, grief for our animal companions can only be dealt with over time, but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. Here are some suggestions, which I found on helpguide.org:
* Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.”
* Reach out to others who have lost pets. Check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups. If your own friends and family members are not sympathetic about pet loss, find someone who is.
* Rituals can help healing. A funeral can help you and your family members openly express your feelings. Ignore people who think it’s inappropriate to hold a funeral for a pet, and do what feels right for you.
* Create a legacy. Preparing a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or otherwise sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion.
* Look after yourself. The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time.
* If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but can also help to elevate your mood and outlook, too.
** Seek professional help if you need it. If your grief is persistent and interferes with your ability to function, your doctor or a mental health professional can evaluate you for depression.
** Here are some grief resources for those of you who are in mourning, or know someone who is:
Coping With Death of Pet – Understanding pet loss grief and how to cope with the pain and sadness. (Recover-from-grief.com)
End of Life Care – Coping with the impending loss of a pet. (ASPCA)
Coping With the Death of Your Pet – Tips on how to cope when it’s time to say goodbye to a beloved pet. (The Humane Society of the United States)
Euthanasia of a Beloved Pet – Better understand and deal with euthanasia. (The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement)