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How to Cope With the Loss of a Pet

Updated on January 30, 2016

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

Raising Pets

Many of our pets come into our home when they are very young.
Many of our pets come into our home when they are very young. | Source
They will hopefully grow old with us.
They will hopefully grow old with us. | Source

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?

See results

Steps to Help you Cope with the Loss.

  1. Allow yourself to grieve.
  2. Talk to friends/family who understand.
  3. Journal or write about your grief.
  4. Find support groups. (see below)
  5. Prepare a memorial.
  6. 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.

This article is dedicated to Finnick. April 2012-March 2014. RIP, sweet boy.
This article is dedicated to Finnick. April 2012-March 2014. RIP, sweet boy. | Source

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

Finnick with his littermate and best friend, Ella.
Finnick with his littermate and best friend, Ella. | Source
Finn was cold so he snuggled up next to Phoebe, valiantly attempting to ignore him!
Finn was cold so he snuggled up next to Phoebe, valiantly attempting to ignore him! | Source
A rare photo of Finnick and Izzy together.
A rare photo of Finnick and Izzy together. | Source

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:

  1. Burial. There are pet cemeteries that can take care of all the details for you or you may have a favorite place at home.
  2. 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.
  3. Walk. Take a walk around your pet's favorite places.
  4. 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.

Support Organizations

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.

Source
Good-bye for now, angel boy. I'll see you on the Rainbow bridge....
Good-bye for now, angel boy. I'll see you on the Rainbow bridge.... | Source

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Randi, I am so, so sorry about your dear kitty. If there is any consolation, let it be that you found him even though in his pitiful state and are not forever wondering. He knows that you love him. My heart grieves with you. Again, I am so sorry, my friend. Sharing your sad story.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Aw, Dear Randi, I am so sorry for your great loss of Finnick. He was a beautiful cat. Our pets certainly are beloved members of our families and it is very hard to lose one. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

      Hugs,

      Faith Reaper

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, FlourishAnyway! You are very sweet and kind. I do agree. I am so thankful that we were able to be with him.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Having gone through a few of these I know your lose but of course I know it is more dramatizing with the what ifs but we cannot beat ourselves up. My cat was almost 20 and indoor/outdoor but so old she never left much past the door (she was losing her sight too) so when she just came up missing last Fall I knew she had gone off to die as many old animals will. Although I will always wonder just a little if that really was the way it was I have decided to accept it as such for my peace of mind. I hope you will come to some good conclusions about your lose, too.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Faith, thank you so much. He was a beauty and dealt missed. I do appreciate your thoughts and prayers!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Jackie, I am so sorry about your girl. I think you are probably right. We questioned letting the micro chip in our older girl but I was afraid she might wander out to die. I never thought it would be my healthy 2 year old! Thank you so much for sharing. We ARE at peace knowing Finn is safe now. The rest will take some time

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Randi. I am sorry, of course, for your loss. It is never easy...they do become an integral part of our lives.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Bill! Writing about Finn was cathartic and gave me something that I could do.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I'm so sorry about the loss of your beloved Finn, Randi. I hope you will soon be able to stop blaming yourself and that your pain will ease. That will allow you to recall happy aspects of the life your pet shared with you.

      Because I waited until I was 61 years old before ever having a pet in my life, I missed many years of knowing and understanding the joy that animals give to humans unconditionally.

      My own pet, a nine-year-old mini schnauzer, has been beset with many health issues, and she now seems older than her real age. (The breed has a normal life span ranging from twelve to fifteen years.) I do everything possible to keep her well and comfortable, but dread any new symptom that might take her away from me.

      I certainly understand and sympathize with your grief. Allow yourself the time you need to recover, regardless of what others think.

      As much as possible without being morbid, I'm trying to prepare myself for the future. In the meantime, I enjoy the time I have with my dog now. Since I'm retired, live alone (except for her) and am at home most of the time, she's my most constant companion.

      Bless you....Jaye

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      So sorry to hear about Finnick! Another friend of mine had to say goodbye to her 16-year old doxie on Monday. Been down this road many more times than I care to remember (I've had to say goodbye to several goldens over the years, anywhere from pup age to old age). So I know what you're feeling. And, yes, I give those who have lost their cherished pets the same amount of sympathy and kindness as I give those who have lost their human family and friends. Wishing you peace and comfort as you remember and honor Finnick!

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      My husband and I lost a kitten we had adopted right after we were married. It was devastating. I've never had a pet I've been as attached to as this one.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jaye. Our pets are our babies and our best friends. Ironically, when I got the cats chipped last year, I almost didn't chip my older girl because she was having a lot of health problems but I was afraid that if she went out to die, I would want to be with her. It never occurred to me that it would be my 2 year old.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Heidi! Like you, this wasn't my first rodeo but with Finn, I feel responsible. I am so sorry for all your losses. they are painful, I know! Thank you for sharing

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Yes, I had one like that, too, ologsinquinto! They leave an imprint on your heart! Thank you so much for stopping by my hub!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      my dog was my partner in crime... and losing a pet is hard this was awesome btrbell.. taking the walk around my last partner's favorite places heals.. a little but heals nonetheless :)

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 3 years ago

      a soothing one bt

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Frank! I'm so sorry about your partner in crime. It hurts so much. I appreciate your kind words. :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      I am so very sorry for your loss! And I hope you find a special place in your heart for Finnick to help you through your loss--

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Audrey! Finn will always have that special place in my heart. I know in time, I will be able to forgive myself. I have chosen a new outlook. I look at my 3 remaining girls and count my blessings that they are happy and healthy!

    • ratnaveera profile image

      ratnaveera 3 years ago from Cumbum

      Really sensible article! It's true that no one can easily forget the missed pets. It'll be a great sorrow especially for kids who would be more attached to them than adults. Thanks a lot for your nice tips to condole our self from the loss of pets. One more tip is that we can make a photo or video album of our missed pet. Thanks again btrbell for this Great Hub! Awesome!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, sujaya! Welcome to my hub!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, ratnaveera and welcome to my hub! Your wonderful comments are much appreciated! As you can see from this hub, we are definitely the photo album type and also have some videos of our boy. In this day and age of technology, I would encourage everyone to do that. Thank you for bringing it up!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 3 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I really miss my cats.

      Mother Cat left us with litters of really cute kittens. She was poisoned and the effects went to its milk which the cats still sipped even though she died already. One by one, they died, even though we nursed them with canned milk.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      That is so sad, travel man. I am sorry. It must have been very hard to watch those little ones go. Thank you for stopping ny and commenting and for the follow!

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      I'm sorry to hear about your kitty. That must have been (and still is) so difficult to deal with. Not knowing where they were for all that time must have been brutal. About five years ago, I lost a dog I loved dearly. I also felt guilty and beat myself up about it. Her health went downhill after she received her annual shots. She was an older dog--a rescue who had a rough life at the beginning--and suffered at the end. I thought I was crazy for getting so upset, so I think these supportive words are important for a lot of people. Thank you for sharing!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Liz! Unless you have loved a pet, it's hard to conceive of their importance to you. I am lucky to be surrounded by pet lovers who have been very gentle with me! So sorry for your loss, as well.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I am so sorry about your loss, our pets, cats or dogs are so special to us, my brother has kept his dogs ashes in a little earn with the statue of the dog on top, its really heartbreaking, this is going to be so helpful to all those of us who lose a pet, nell

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Nell! He is sorely missed! I was offered his ashes but couldn't think about that at the time.I appreciate your comment and kind words!

    • amymurry profile image

      Amy Murry 3 years ago from London

      The only way to get pass it is just by letting the times go.

      do something that'll keep you going until you feel better. only time will heal this kind of pain.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, amymurry! You are definitely right about that! Time is a healer. Welcome to my hub!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Our shih tzu is 12 years old and although they have fairly long life spans compared to other breeds we know she won't live forever. She is an integral part of our family and when her time comes I know it will be very difficult. So sorry about to hear about Finnick. So sad :(

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, bdeguilio for doing by and your kind comments about Finn. He is missed!

      I know shady you mean about your little girl. I had my poodle, Pippen until he was 19. It's tough when they are such an integral part of the family. But who would have it any other way?!

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      That was truly a warm feeling that you shared about your loss. Our house pets are like family, so when they leave us, it's a very sad time. I've buried several Cocker Spaniels, birds and cats in our back garden. When my children were still living at home we had a whole ceremony for them. Every time we adopt a puppy or kitty, we know already that we might outlive them, but I would still never be without these adorable companions.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Nadine! Unfortunately that knowledge is what stops many people from opening their homes to fur babies. We still miss our boy and the many dogs, cats , hamsters, turtles, fish, etc before him, but, like you, well keep on spring and loving them! Thanks so c much fir stopping by and commenting!

    • carolinemd21 profile image

      Caroline Marie 2 years ago from Close to Heaven

      This is such a sweet hub Btrbell dedicated to our loved ones. I love animals and lost pets in the past. It is hard to lose a friend. Thank you for haring this. :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thanks so much for stopping by, carolinemd and for your sweet comments!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 2 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      This caught my eye when I lost my favorite cat ever--14 years old--a few weeks ago. I'm still grieving as if it just happened, but others don't understand. I got her ashes, which gives me comfort. But it is so hard. The crematory sent me that quote you put at the beginning of your hub. It's so true. Loving a pet, and accepting their love, is like nothing else. It's so pure. I'm glad you wrote this. Thanks.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Oh, Vicki, I am so so sorry. They are so much a part of our lives. They are our family. Even after 4 months, I still think of my Finn boy. The only difference is that I can think of him without tearing up (most of the time) Our house is not the same without him. I am so glad you found this hub. I hope it helps, at least in that you are not alone. During the 6 weeks that we were looking for our boy, we became involved with several organizations. It was the outpouring of love from these people when they heard our sad news that helped me through those first couple of days.

      Thinking of you and hoping the hurt lessens. RIP to your sweet baby.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      Such a fitting hub for anyone who has lost a beloved pet. Voted up and shared Randi for this great read. Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Eddy, thank you! I know that you know. all to well, how painful this is.

      Thank you so much for the vote and share. Much appreciated!

      xo

    • Breanne Ginsburg profile image

      Breanne Ginsburg 2 years ago

      I'm sorry to hear about your loss, I understand what you are going through. When I lost my rabbit, I was heart broken and I'm still going through a hard time at times. I still feel guilty even though I know the passing away of my rabbit was not my fault and it's still hard for me to accept sometimes that she's really gone. I agree that people shouldn't just go out and replace their pets. Animals, like humans, are a big part of our lives and are important, they are not something to just be cast aside.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Oh, Breanne, I am so sorry about the loss of your rabbit. I know what you mean. It is hard to accept that they are really gone. I still think of Finn a lot. It is hard but it does get easier. There is still a part of me that wants to get another one but I just hold my 3 remaining girls a little closer!

    • Breanne Ginsburg profile image

      Breanne Ginsburg 2 years ago

      Thank you so much for caring.

    • Rabadi profile image

      18 months ago from New York

      Sorry to hear about your loss, it isn't easy to write about it and I appreciate you sharing this with us from one pet lover to another thank you!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 18 months ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Rabadi! I appreciate your kind words and visit. I lok forward to reading your hubs.

    • carolinemd21 profile image

      Caroline Marie 16 months ago from Close to Heaven

      I reread your article and it really helped me. Thank you so much dear friend. :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 16 months ago from Mesa, AZ

      I'm so glad, Caroline! What a tough time it has been for you! And the helplessness you feel in that situation.

      I hooe 2016 brings you only good things. I am enjoying your Facebook posts so much! :)

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 7 months ago from Texas

      Hi Randi, you are so right about people ignore your pain when you have a pet die. This is an awesome hub.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 7 months ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Shyron for the visit and the comment. I can't imagine having a pet and not loving/treating it like family.

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