Pets become part of our families, which explains why it is so difficult to deal with the loss of a pet you love. It’s normal to feel sorrow and grief-no matter what anyone says. Pets provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and unconditional love during their time with you. If you understand and accept this bond between humans and pets, you’ve already taken the first step toward coping with the loss of a pet: knowing that it’s okay to be sad when your pet dies.
The grieving process will depend on who you are as a person. Most individuals begin it by feeling angry-whether it is toward themselves, a family member, or even a veterinarian. After the anger subsides, most caregivers experience extreme sadness. The sadness may not ever completely subside, but once it fades a little, acceptance should be the next step. Acceptance occurs when the owner accepts the reality of their lost pet and remembers their animal companion with less sadness.
There are several ways owners can cope with pet death, and it’s important to note that you should never have to do it alone. Here are a few suggestions to help you cope:
• Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.
• Reach out to supportive family in friends who will provide sympathy and listen.
• Write about your feelings in a journal.
• Call your local humane society to find out if it offers a pet loss support group or can refer you to one.
• Prepare a memorial for your pet.
• Ask your veterinarian about available pet loss hotlines.
There are several other forms of support including pet bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines, local or online Internet bereavement groups, books, videos, and magazine articles. You can find out more about these by searching for them on the Internet, or asking your veterinarian or local animal shelter.
If you have children in your family, be prepared to help them cope with possibly their first experience with death. The child may not understand why the pet is gone at first. But it’s important to not lie to the child about the animal’s death-make sure he/she understands that the pet is not coming back. It’s also helpful to not hide your own grief. Showing your child that it’s okay to be sad will help with the process.
Believe it or not, if you have other pets in your home, they will probably experience the same sadness as you do after the loss of a pet. Surviving pets may whimper, refuse to eat or drink, and appear lethargic. The behaviors should subside after a little while. However, if you notice that your pet has not gotten better after a long period of time, he/she may require veterinary attention. You can also offer a supplement such as PSCPets Calming Formula which contains nutrients that can help assist with balanced behavior and relaxation.
The loss of a pet will never be easy, and don’t let people tell you it should be. Try following the steps above and remember that you loved your pet, it’s OK to be sad and fully grieve the loss.