Coping with the Death of a Pet
Dealing with the loss of a pet is not unlike losing a family member or a close friend. The bond between pets and their pet parents goes a lot deeper than just walks and feedings. Pets offer emotional support, unconditional love, a sense of purpose, and even entertainment. They are always there and always in our care, and that makes coping with the passing of a pet no easy task.
As hard as it is, there are a few things to keep in mind during these times of grief that may relieve some of the stress of your loss.
- Accept Your Feelings
Do not attempt to get over your grief quickly, and especially don’t listen to people who try to invalidate your feelings. Pets are loved ones, and people who don’t understand that cannot be of any help to you during your period of grief. Instead, try finding a support group or talking to someone who values pets as much as you do. There is no norm for grief, so don’t look to anyone else to see how you “should” be reacting. Love yourself through it.
- Honor Your Lost Pet
Hold a memorial service, create an altar, make a scrapbook, or start a project dedicated to your pet. These things clearly display your love for your pet and may help with any feelings of guilt or loneliness that you are holding. Letting yourself and others recognize how much you loved your pet can provide healing, and it can be a first step toward getting back to a normal life.
- Give Yourself Time
Don’t rush the process of grief. It often takes people years to recover from the loss of a human loved one, and it can take the same amount of time to recover from the loss of a pet. Grief manifests differently for each person, so it’s important to be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to feel what you feel, whether it is joy or sadness. Let joy come as it may. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.
- Nobody Lives Forever
Regardless of whether your pet lived out their full life span, death is simply a part of life. Accidents, illnesses, and sudden deaths happen to humans and animals every day. It doesn’t make it any less painful or the grief any less real, but it helps to realize that it’s natural and it’s not your fault when they pass away. The best thing is to accept your feelings, nurture yourself through the difficult period, continue to love and honor your pet, and allow yourself to just be. Let yourself feel pain, grief, acceptance, joy, and all other emotions as they come up.
Remember that you are not alone. Countless support groups and hotlines exist to help you through your loss. Find people who are understanding of your pain, and give yourself the space and time to complete the grieving process. Don’t force yourself to move on, but keep making gradual steps to move forward.