Understanding the Grieving Process During the Loss of a Pet

Coping With the Loss of Your Pet

When you have a pet, they are one of your family members and our best of friends. Losing them can have long-lasting negative effects on surviving members. The grieving process varies from person to person; one person it may only last a few days while others it may take years. Oftentimes, it begins with a denial process in which a person denies the loss has even happened. This is a form of protection until the person can deal with their loss. Some individuals may become angry. Occasionally, anger can be directly related to someone involved with the pet such as family members, friends, and veterinarians. Pet owners may even feel guilty of what they did or did not do. Seniors, children, and other family pets all experience grief differently.

The death of a pet for seniors can be extremely difficult, particularly on those that live alone. Pets give the elderly companionship and help them deal with many facets of life. The loss may generate painful memories of other loved ones lost or remind them of their own mortality. They may have a sense of emptiness and loss of self-worth. It is important to keep communication amongst family and friends open. In addition, there are many volunteer opportunities available throughout many communities for example: schools, churches, hospitals, shelters, and animal shelters to name a few.

For children, the loss of a pet may be their first experience dealing with loss. A child’s reaction to the death of a pet usually depends on their developmental level. Children between the ages of 3-5 years view death as temporary or reversibly. Children who are between the years of 6-8 years are starting to understand a more realistic nature of death. Typically, it’s not until around the ages of 9, children understand that death is permanent and final. Children may blame themselves, parents, or the veterinarian for not saving their pet. Additionally, there could be feelings of guilt, depression, and fear of other loved ones will be taken from them. Protecting children from the truth could lead the child to believe the pet will return and when they discover the truth they may have feelings of betrayal. Parents can model by expressing their own grief which will give the child reassurance, allowing them to know it is okay to be sad and help them work through their own feelings. Allow the child to ask questions, write about the pet, or draw a picture to help articulate their feelings.

Surviving pets may also display grief when their companion dies. The loss may distress them and may even cause anxiety for a bit. They may refuse to eat or drink. Try to give the surviving pet lots of affection and try to continue your usual routine.

Grief is a very personal experience. However, there are resources available so pet owners do not have to face the loss alone. Some of the support options available are pet bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines, and online bereavement support groups. In addition to these veterinarian clinics or local animal shelters can also provide resources for support options as well. Grief is a normal process of loss of any loved one.

By Teresa Bennett, http://www.simplypetorganics.com

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