Anyone who has experienced the loss of a pet knows that the bond between humans and animals can be extremely strong. In fact, science has confirmed this. That’s why the grief you may experience with the loss of a pet can be just as intense as what you feel when you lose a human you are close to.
To make matters worse, pet owners are often forced to decide if a pet’s deteriorating health calls for euthanizing the animal. This can add a layer of confusion to the many emotions we feel during this difficult time.
For some, the grief will be transitory. For others, it will take some time to heal. There are no quick fixes for making the pain we feel when we lose a pet go away. But there are things you can do to help cope with your grief over pet loss.
Loss of Pet: Tips for Coping
- Accept that what you are feeling is normal: You may have heard of The Five Stages of Grief. Being aware of these emotional shifts can help you understand that what you are feeling is completely normal. To learn more about the Five Stages of Grief click here.
- Allow yourself to grieve: Don’t minimize your grief. Whether the pet was a favorite feline, a faithful dog, or even a little turtle, the loss of a pet can spark deep feelings of grief. Everyone experiences loss differently so there’s no reason to expect specific behaviors.
- Reach out: Turning to a family member, friend, clergy, or support group may give you an outlet for expressing your feelings. If you want to reach out but aren’t sure where to turn, pet loss hotlines can help. Do not hesitate to contact a professional if your grief is overwhelming you. Your veterinarian may also be able to provide a list of possible places to turn for help.
- Create a ritual: Today many people turn to pet funerals as part of the grieving process. While you may not want a full-blown funeral ceremony, creating a ritual may help you say goodbye and offer comfort and closure. Your ritual can be as simple or as complex as you like.
- Memorialize your pet: Creating a lasting memorial of the time you and your pet spent together helps many people deal with their grief. Some of the most popular ways are to create a special photo album, find a special spot for your pet’s remains, or to have a special burial spot. The information below on Creating a Lasting Memorial offers some other ideas on how you can create a memorial to your pet.
- Give yourself a break: There is no need to put yourself on a grief timetable. You should take care of yourself by eating right and getting enough rest. Taking care of your physical and emotional needs will help you heal more quickly.
Loss of Pet: Creating a Lasting Memorial
Loss of pet doesn’t mean you have to lose the memories. Many people find that creating a special memorial can help in coping with the loss of a pet because it helps you hold on to the memories and provide a lasting tribute to your pet. Here are just a few ways you can memorialize your pet:
- Hold a funeral or memorial ceremony.
- Plant a tree in your pet’s memory.
- Post an online memorial or obituary.
- Create a special place in your garden with a garden stone or marker infused with your pet’s ashes.
- Find a spot in your home to display a special urn with your pet’s ashes.
- Have your pet’s ashes encased in a piece of memorial jewelry or have a diamond or gemstone made.
- Donate in your pet’s name to an organization that helps animals.
- Have fireworks created from your pet’s remains or have the remains shot into space.
Loss of Pet: Planning Ahead
Planning ahead may make the process of grieving the loss of a pet a bit easier. It will also give you time to weigh your options and avoid having to make complex decisions at an emotional time. When the time actually comes, knowing what to expect, what your options are, and how you should proceed will allow you to move more quickly through the process of grieving rather than having to focus on the details that come after the death of a pet.
Talk with your veterinarian about:
- What to expect during your pet’s last days.
- How to help your pet remain comfortable.
- What your options are should it be necessary to consider euthanasia.
- What type of support services they offer.
Talk with your family about:
- The best way to memorialize your pet.
- Who might like to visit with your pet before the time comes.
- What you would like to do with your pet’s remains.
- Support services or groups that are available to help your and your family with your grief.
Remember that the loss of a pet is a significant life event, particularly if the pet has been with your family for a long time. You may be required to handle your own grief as well as help others in your family handle theirs. This can be overwhelming. If you feel like you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. There are many people who have experienced similar losses who can provide support and advice. And by all means, allow yourself to grieve.