Dealing with Pet Loss
The love of pets is embedded into many cultures all over the world. Humans give cats and dogs names, take care of their physical needs, buy them toys, talk to them like fellow human beings, and, of course, grieve when they die.
Grief is a normal and natural response to losing a loved one. But unfortunately, it’s impossible to go through life without being touched by grief. So, given that many people consider their pets to be valued members of their families, the loss of a pet can be challenging. It can be profoundly disruptive to your sense of home and a sense of purpose when dealing with pet loss.
Yet many are surprised by the intensity of grief following the loss of a pet. And that’s because it’s not talked about enough. The relationship between pets and their owners is based on companionship and mutual affection. So it’s only natural to give yourself time to cope with such a devastating loss.
Dealing with Pet Loss: How to Cope
There’s no definite pattern for grief. Contrary to popular belief, the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – are more myth than science. Furthermore, grief does not unfold in clean, linear stages. Everyone grieves in their own way and on their own timeline. What’s more, grief is not something you get over but rather a process you move through when dealing with pet loss.
Here’s how you can move through the process and mourn your loss.
- Acknowledge the reality of the death
The devastation can be magnified if you feel ashamed for being grief-stricken, especially after euthanasia. Even though euthanasia is often the right decision, it doesn’t hurt any less. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge why you made the decision, as guilt will only exacerbate your pain.
Move toward the pain and allow yourself to experience the emotions. Don’t ignore or push your feelings away.
- Consider talking with someone who can relate
You need to accept love and support from others during this difficult time. Pet loss presents unique challenges because not everyone can relate to the emotional load. Some people have the mentality of “It’s only a dog; get over it!” That’s why it’s essential to find a community of people who have also been dealing with pet loss and understand the depths of your pain.
Realize that your grief is valid in whatever way it comes.
- Try a mourning process
Mourning rituals, such as holding a wake and a funeral, are great ways to honor those who’ve left while allowing those left behind to cope with their emotional pain.
There are a few ways you can try to honor your pet when dealing with pet loss. For instance, you can light a candle to memorialize your pet. You can also light a candle on the anniversary of its death. If you like journaling, you can write a thank-you letter to your pet, talking about everything you miss and are grateful for. You can even arrange a resting place for them in your yard if possible.
Supporting Children Through Pet Loss
Children grieve the loss of pets just as intensely as adults do. Unfortunately, they may not be able to explain their emotions, so it’s up to you to help them process them. The stories of “he’s gone to live on a farm” don’t help much and only serve to hide away the problem. Instead, help them create and decorate a memory box with whatever reminds them of their pet.
Engage your child in activities that lift their spirits and help them find comfort in routine and play. It will also help if you put away any pet-related items so you and your family can have a break from the sadness.
The experience of loss is different for everyone. So leave a little kindness for yourself and practice self-compassion.
Contact Hebron Veterinary Hospital
Contact us at (860) 228-4324 or visit our contact page if you need help dealing with pet loss. We may be able to help direct you towards some helpful resources, or just someone to talk to since we build so many relationships here at our office. Also, be sure to give us a call if it’s time for any of your other pet’s regular wellness or preventative care visit.