How to Cope With the Loss of a Pet
When a pet dies, we are often devastated. It can be overwhelming.There is no right or wrong way to grieve and it will affect different people in different ways. Not only will it affect the mourners differently, it will also affect the people around them in different ways. Some people will jump in with words of sympathy and support while others won't even acknowledge your grief. They don't understand how you can be so broken up over an animal. Because of that, they may not allow you the time or support you need to get through this very difficult time.
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."~Anatole France
We love our pets. Whether we consider them our babies or our best buddies, they are generally spoiled, loved and well taken care of. Most of them do the same for us. They are loyal and loving. They are sad when we leave and happy when we come home. Their needs are generally simple which helps to make it easy for us to love them. Our relationships with them are usually uncomplicated and when we lose them, they take a big part of us with them. It is important to recognize this loss and make time to deal with it. Unresolved grief can be unheathy resulting in depression or other health problems.There are many groups that can help you work through your grief. We are so fortunate to live in a time where we can communicate easily and instantly with others through social media. There is no need to be alone in your grief. If there are children in your family, special care should be taken to help them get through this.
What do you think?
Do you consider your pets members of the family?
Steps to Help you Cope with the Loss.
- Allow yourself to grieve.
- Talk to friends/family who understand.
- Journal or write about your grief.
- Find support groups. (see below)
- Prepare a memorial.
- Share stories and anecdotes about your pet.
The Stages of Mourning.
Keep in mind that you will probably experience the stages of bereavement that are common to accepting the loss of a loved one. You may experience anger or denial, sadness and guilt. These are typical emotions following a loss.
Consider Rescue Pets
While I believe that it wouldn't be fair to yourself or your new pet if you rush right out and get another one, I also believe that most of us will probably bring another one home fairly quickly. Please consider adopting your next pet. There are so many homeless pets ready to love and be loved. They are just waiting for you!
What Not to Do When Your Pet Dies
Don't beat yourself up.
Don't ignore the pain you are feeling.
Don't rush out for a "replacement" immediately.
Don't discount the grief of other members of the family, furry or otherwise.
Other pets in Your Home are also Suffering a Loss
A Personal Story on The Loss Of a Pet
Recently, I wrote an article on searching for missing pets. You can read that here: How to Cope With a Missing Pet. I wrote it because six weeks ago, two of my cats went missing. At the time of that writing, my smallest girl, Ella, had just returned home. She had been gone exactly one week. Unfortunately, her brother, Finnick was still gone. Sadly, this past Friday, we received a call, that dreaded call, from Animal Control. They had our boy and he was in critical condition. The rest of the story still feels a bit surreal to me. I can still feel the palpitating fear and nausea as we ran to the pound. The vet there didn't hold out much hope for him but admitted that they didn't have access to many diagnostic tests. He was in terrible shape but seemed to recognize us. We then raced him to our vet.The prognosis was dire. We were then faced with that horrific decision. We chose not to prolong his pain and suffering. We held him, kissed him and told him we loved him as we let him go. While we are grateful to have all been there for him at the end, I have still not been able to let go of number one on my list above of what not to do. I keep beating myself up, thinking:
If only I had called out louder, stayed out longer, looked further....
He might still be with me today.
Memorializing Your Pet.
Here are a few things that you can do to help you say goodbye to your pet:
- Burial. There are pet cemeteries that can take care of all the details for you or you may have a favorite place at home.
- Scatter ashes. If you chose to take your pets ashes home, you can either keep them in a special place or scatter them somewhere that made your pet happy.
- Walk. Take a walk around your pet's favorite places.
- Candle lighting. Light a candle(s). At this time, you can pray for him, share stories about him or just use this time to remember your pet.
Whatever you decide to do, it is important to have some closure. You can do it in any way that is comfortable for you.
Cremation or Burial for your Pets?
Your vet will discuss options such as cremation or burial. With an aging or long term illness, you may have some time to think about what you woud like to do before. If your pet passes suddenly, you may have to make that decision quickly. It is important to give some thought to what you might prefer to do when the time comes, before the time actually comes. It is hard to think that way, but it will be easier if you have some of those decisions out of the way. This is a highly emotional time and you won't want to be worrying about details. There is no right choice here, only the choice you are most comfortable with. Regardless of which method they choose, many people like to have a memorial for their pets. It can be anything from a moment of silence to a funeral. Some suggestions are detailed below.
The Rainbow Bridge
Be Kind to Yourself
Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to grieve. Remember the fun and the funny things. Look at pictures. Talk about your pet when it's comfortable but don't feel obligated. People don't always know what to say or do, so it is ok to tell them what you need. If you don't feel like you want to talk about it, just let people know ahead of time. They will generally, follow your lead.
There are many different resources to help you through your grief. You may want to start with your vetinarian first. If they don't offer anything through their practice, they will have groups to recommend. There are an inordinate amount of groups online.Pet Partners site that has compiled many different resources. Another site to check is The Rainbow Bridge. There you can share posts, stories and comments with others. If you would like to know more about the history of the Rainbow Bridge, wikipedia has compiled a good amount of information. You can check it out here.
Coping with the Loss of your Pet with healing Words.
Micro Chip your Pets
I did want to add that if it wasn't for the micro chip Finn had, we would never have known what happened to him. I urge you, if you haven't done so, please chip your pets. There are many facilities that can do it for you,. The price varies, anywhere from free to about $70. Most have an annual subscription that is a fairly nominal fee. The fact that we were able to be with our boy at the end, was precious to us and priceless.