Someone I know this week lost their pet. It was truly heartbreaking. I can’t imagine losing either of my boys. If you’ve lost a pet and that’s why you’re reading this article. I’m really sorry to hear your pet has passed away.
Why does the loss of a pet hurt so much?
It’s never “just a dog” or “just a cat”. Many of us share an intense bond with our animal companions and we love them like any person in our life.
A pet can mean so much in your life. It can add meaning or a sense of purpose. A pet can help you overcome setbacks and challenges. A pet can support you through hard days. Always being there through thick and thin.
The loss can often feel overwhelming and come with a lot of painful and difficult emotions. One thing should be said. Never ever feel guilty or ashamed about grieving for your pet. The grief can be just as real and as hard as if not worse than losing a person in your life. There is no shame in caring this much about your pet. It is normal and I know I care that much.
We all respond to loss differently. Grief doesn’t decide how to affect you based on logical factors. It doesn’t matter if your male or female, 18 or 80, extrovert or introvert. You will experience grief in your own way.
8 strategies for helping you say your final goodbye
Talk it through
Find people to talk to too. Being able to talk to someone about your pet, your memories and how you’re feeling about the loss is very important. It helps you process the emotions you’re feeling. This person may not be within your existing circle. If you need someone to talk to you will more than likely find a local pet group in your area or a support group to help you talk it through. Remember never feel ashamed for how sad you are about losing your pet. Never ever let anyone devalue your loss. It is never “just a dog” or “just a cat”.
Address any guilt you’re feeling
Sometimes losing a pet can be made harder through the circumstances in which our pet passes away. We can lose our pet to an accident. Remember it is just that, an accident. You need to accept that it was an accident. You didn’t purposely set out to hurt your pet. You gave your pet the best life you could. Remember that.
Another choice some people need to take is euthanasia. Do not think of this as taking your pets life. You are taking your vet’s advice and you’re saving your pet a lot of pain and suffering in those final stages of their life. Always be with your pet during this process. It will be a scary time and having you by their side will help them.
Consider a ceremony
A ceremony will can help and allow you to find comfort. This can take any form you like. You can have a ceremony before or after losing your pet. If you are facing a choice of euthanasia you can have a ceremony before. You can do this in many different ways. Perhaps planning a fun weekend with your pet. Doing all the things you and your pet enjoy. Maybe going for ice cream. Going to their favourite spot. A final walk on the beach.
If you want to do something after losing your pet you can hold a funeral or memorial with family and friends. This can be a celebration of your pets life sharing pictures, videos and stories. A ceremony can be extremely difficult but they are also very cathartic and can help you process all the emotions you’re feeling.
It takes time
Don’t rush or try to ignore your grief. It can take time. It’s important to go at your own pace. We are all different. You don’t have to clear out their old toys or bed. These things may provide you comfort and that’s okay. Take as long as you need to work through your emotions and your sorrow.
Ask questions if you need too
If you’re have any lingering thoughts about your pet or their passing then ask. Perhaps you want to know how your pet died or have questions about the condition your pet had. Ask. Your vet can help answer your questions to help you in moving on. Don’t leave yourself wondering for years. Knowing what happened will help you in dealing with your grief.
If you have children, help them through their grief
If you have children, they may be grieving just as much as you. It’s important to allow them to talk as much as they want about how they’re feeling. You can help them in working through their grief by creating something physically such as a scrap book, framing a picture or writing about their favourite memories with their pet. This could end up helping you just as much as your children.
Do something in memory of your pet
This can be anything you want to do to help you remember your pet. This could be adding a memorial plaque to your garden, it could be volunteering at an animal sanctuary, It could be creating a montage of your pet to hang in your house. You could raise money for an animal charity through taking on a new challenge.
There will come a time when you know it’s time to move forward and let go of your grief. Your memories of your pet will always stay alive, but part of grieving is about saying goodbye and learning to let go. It’s learning to adjust to life without your companion. Never feel you’re being disloyal to your pet by letting go of your grief or considering getting a new pet. Your pet would want you to move on and help another animal have an amazing life. A lot of furry friends out there need good homes and if you’re reading this article I’m pretty certain you can give them just that.
I also think it’s worth mentioning, if you’re struggling to manage your grief please do speak to someone and seek professional help if you need it. I know I’m repeating myself but never be ashamed for what you’re feeling.