You Are Not Alone: A Guide To Grieving And Pet Loss

Madison_iStock_000013832378_LargeFor most pet owners, life doesn’t simply go on after the death of a beloved pet. Regardless of the details precipitating those final moments, when a pet succumbs to illness or injury it can be utterly devastating. While it’s difficult to accept the terms of a beloved pet’s death, there are appropriate ways to process pet loss, and we are here to help all of our clients take that first, seemingly impossible step toward acceptance and healing.

Deep Affection

As a pet owner, you’re no stranger to the loyalty and companionship implicit in a pet’s relationship. The powerful combination of adoration, shared adventures, and serious snuggle time add meaning to both of your lives, no matter how much time you’ve had together. Pet owners know well at adoption that a new pet will eventually age and pass away, and perhaps that’s what makes the time spent together so much sweeter.

Pet Loss

Although many pet owners struggle with the pain and suffering a sick, injured, or senior pet endures, the pain of pet loss does not diminish after his or her passing. True, there can be a sense of relief that a pet isn’t hurting any longer, but parting ways with a beloved friend and family member can shake us person to our very core.

Five Stages Of Grief

Typically, bereaved pet owners will go through these common stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

You may not experience each stage, and the stages aren’t necessarily in order. A major component in coping with pet loss is guilt. It’s not uncommon for a pet owner to feel like the pet’s death could have been avoided if only certain actions or finances were different. Indeed, grief can make a pet owner feel that pet loss was his or her “fault” – even if that’s not the case.

Consuming Feelings

When reeling from pet loss, pet owners may seek comfort or solace from friends or family, but many people do not understand the deep connection, and may trivialize the loss. This can lead to feelings of isolation, consuming sadness, and desperation. Please remember: you are not alone, and you should never feel embarrassed or ashamed for the deep love you felt for your pet.

Find The Help You Deserve

If you do experience misunderstanding from your usual circle of support, there are many other avenues to help you deal with pet loss. We encourage you to contact us in order to connect with local bereavement resources or support groups. Also, please consider:

Honor Your Pet

Memorializing your pet is a wonderful way to keep your pet’s memory alive, and we hope these ideas help you in honoring your pet:

  • Host a memorial service, you might be surprised by the number of lives your pet touched as well
  • Cast your pet’s paw print in stone or plaster and place lovingly near a spot he or she preferred
  • Frame a photograph, drawing, or painting of your pet and hang on the wall
  • Plant a tree or a patch of catnip in memory of your pet
  • Create a scrapbook that details your shared memories
  • Hold onto a keepsake box that holds your pet’s collar, leash, toys, blankets, and bowl
  • Write a song, story, letter or poem for your pet

Take Your Time

Please remember to take good care of yourself during your grief, and perhaps increase activities or exercise to lift your spirits. Also, if you have other pets in your household, try to keep up with the regular routine. Your pet’s absence will be noticed – and felt – by your other pets, and falling behind on the usual stuff may add to the anxiety or apprehensions.

Before adding another pet to the mix, make sure the stages of grief have been thoroughly worked through and that you are truly ready to open your heart to another animal.

Please call us if you need help coping with pet loss; you are not alone!