No matter how long they have been with you, and regardless of species or breed, your pet is a member of your family; sharing your home, enjoying your company, and helping create wonderful memories, your pet is no doubt a best friend. Although not a human family member, the loss of your pet is bound to evoke a great sense of loss, and indescribable grief that you might initially struggle to cope with.
Take a moment to yourself to realize that the emotions you are experiencing are not only normal, but also completely understandable, and then follow a few of the steps below…
Coping with pet loss
It is important to remember that the loss of a pet can be dealt with in any number of ways, and none of them are right or wrong. Grief is an emotion that touches us all in different ways; a personal experience that can only be dealt with when we are ready. You may choose to donate to an animal charity or shelter in your pet’s honor, particularly if he or she had been a rescue animal. You might like to conduct a special service to allow friends and family to remember your pet in their own ways. However you handle your grief, be reassured that you are not alone.
Say goodbye properly
One of the hardest parts of losing a pet is the goodbye; that chance to pay tribute to your pet while the emotions you are experiencing are still raw. We can often be tempted to shy away from such a gesture; however, saying goodbye properly is one of the first steps towards healing – as well as being your chance to let go of any feelings of guilt. Funeral and pet cremation services can be a wonderful way to pay tribute to a lost pet, and for you to begin the natural grieving process. Do whatever feels right, whether it is a service attended by a wider circle, a small ceremony at your home, or a memorial service. You can also write a letter or poem that you feel comfortable sharing.
Take time to grieve
Look after yourself, and do not be afraid to cry; bottling up emotions often only makes matters worse. The loss of a pet is just as personal to someone as the loss of a human family member, and many will be unsure what to say. Confront your feelings and find healthy ways to release your emotions; socialize, take up a hobby, start a creative project, or enjoy exercise – whatever it takes to channel your feelings in a constructive manner.
Do not be afraid to talk about it
It does not matter whether you are talking out loud to yourself, with friends or family members, or to a counselor, simply remember that it is healthy to want to talk about your pet, and to share your feelings. Embrace the opportunity to get out and about and take your mind off your grief for even a moment. Now is also a good time to reach out to those who may have lost pets in the past, whether that is someone you know well, or a new online friend.
Create a memorial
You loved your pet, and still do, so honor him or her; when you are ready, create a memorial or gravesite that can be visited whenever you feel down, or want to remember the good times. Popular memorials chosen by owners include a headstone or plaque for the pet’s grave, a photo album or picture display somewhere special within the home, a decorative urn for the pet’s ashes, or a tree or shrub planted at the burial site or in their favorite spot within your yard. A memorial is a symbol of your affection for your pet and a reminder to celebrate your relationship.
Choosing a new pet
One day, when the time is right, you might consider welcoming a new family member into your home. Many pet owners do choose to rehome another animal following the loss of a beloved pet to regain the companionship they have lost, or to fill their home with happiness and love once more. This act in no way means you have forgotten your pet, or that you are attempting to replace them; simply that you are ready to begin a different adventure with a new friend.
At this time, it is important not to neglect other members of your family that may need your time and care, including remaining pets. They may be experiencing the loss just as much as you are and may need your comfort, or a little support. Above all, remember that grief affects everybody differently. Together, your family can overcome the sense of loss you are feeling right now, until you are able to remember your pet with happiness and affection.