Pets are more than just your furry friends; they are beloved members of your family. You celebrate your pets’ birthdays, confide in them, and spend lonely nights cuddling with them. Therefore, when a beloved pet dies, it is completely normal and understandable to feel deep feelings of sorrow and grief.
However, there are also other feelings that may come into play after the loss of a pet. In fact, many pet owners experience feelings of shock and denial. You may grow angry at yourself or your veterinarian – thinking that you could have done more for your pet while he/she was alive. You might wish you had spent more time with your pet or given him or her more attention.
While it is normal to feel such emotions, it is important that you find healthy ways to cope with the loss of your pet.
How to Deal with Grief
Although it can be difficult, it is important that you give yourself the self-love and space you need in order to go through the grieving process. Set aside some time to reflect everyday. Write down your thoughts and feelings, go to a pet loss support group, tell your friends and family how you’re feeling, and, most importantly, don’t judge yourself for the emotions you are experiencing.
If you have kids, the loss of a beloved pet is particularly difficult as this may be their first experience with death. Younger children may not fully understand it, but pre-teens and certainly teenagers will be able to. Tell your kids you’re there for them if they need to talk, and let them share in the grieving process with you. Be honest. Don’t say that the pet ran away or just went to sleep. Be upfront about what really happened to your pet, but deliver the news delicately.
It will take time, but the grief will subside. You will forever miss your pet, but eventually it will be easier to accept what has happened. If you want to take more actionable steps towards recovering from grief, try the following.
Give your pet a proper memorial
Whether you choose to bury your pet in your backyard or in a pet cemetery, you may want to hold a memorial service to commemorate his or her life. You and your family and friends can gather around the grave and share stories about your pet. You can show each other pictures and say a few prayers. This will give you some closure, and serve as a place to go and reflect upon your memories with your pet when you’re feeling down.
Donate to a charity for other pets
A beautiful way to honor your pet’s legacy is to donate your time or money to an animal charity. Other animals will benefit from your contribution and you’ll feel good knowing you turned a sad situation into something good. You may even want to start a fund in your pet’s name to help other animals.
Treat yourself to self-care
Speaking to a professional about the loss of your pet may be necessary. You may also want to try some self-soothing techniques like meditation, massage, deep breathing, and exercise. This will help you calm down and give you peace of mind.
Maintain your other pets’ routines
If you have other pets, it’s important to ensure that you’re sticking to their daily routines and taking care of them to the best of your ability. They might miss your other pet and need some extra attention and love. Stay on schedule with walks, feedings, and cuddle time, even if you don’t feel up for it at the moment.
Consider getting a new pet
Some pet owners immediately bring in new pets following a loss. Others wait years until they decide to forge a new bond with another pet. It’s a personal decision, and you have to wait until it feels right for you. If you get another pet quickly, it doesn’t mean that he or she will replace the one you lost. At the same time, you want to be ready so you can dedicate your time, energy, and love to your new friend.
Losing a pet is one of the hardest things you may ever have to go through. But by giving yourself the space to mourn and experience grief, you’re setting yourself for a successful recovery. At the end of the day, you’ll remember all the great times you and your pet had, and choose to focus on all the wonderful memories you created together.