After the death of a friend or a loved one, losing a beloved pet may well be one of the hardest things that you experience during your lifetime. It’s often very difficult to validate the emotions that you’re feeling as people remind you that he or she was “just an animal”, but, as you know, pets are so much more to us than that. Whether you had to make a difficult decision towards the end of your pet’s life, have experienced your pet’s struggles with them, or were unable to say goodbye at all, the loss of a pet can bring feelings of isolation, grief, and sadness that will take their toll. Understanding how to handle such emotions is vital, though you should know that you’re never alone in what you’re feeling.
Take your time
It’s important to remember that everybody grieves differently and at a different pace. You may find that you’re unable to move on as quickly as those around you, or that you’re at a particular stage in the grieving process far sooner than you’d expected. There is no right or wrong way to grieve for a pet, as long as you feel comfortable with the emotions that you’re feeling, and the way that you’re reacting to certain situations. It’s also important to acknowledge when you’re not coping so well, and to reach out for advice should you need it. There’s no shame in seeking support from a service such as Pet Loss, or asking a specialist counselor or therapist to talk to you.
Talk about your loss
It’s vital to talk about your pet, whether that’s sharing treasured memories with those who are also feeling the loss, or a professional that will help you make sense of the emotions that you’re experiencing. The grief that surrounds the loss of any animal can be confusing, stirring a myriad of sentiments. Guilt, denial, anger, sadness, and despair may have come to you at one time or another, and each is as valid, and natural, as the last – particularly if your loss was unexpected, or you had to have your pet euthanized. Indeed, those that have had to make difficult decisions often find their loss far more difficult to cope with, and so talking therapy can help to release all kinds of feeling that you may not have known were there. Don’t be afraid to speak your pet’s name, take time to look over pictures of happier times, and allow yourself the time and space to grieve.
Consider your pet’s remains
The loss of a pet brings with it a number of difficult decisions, many of which you’ll be asked to make prior to, or in the immediate aftermath, of their passing. One such decision will be what to do with your pet’s remains, and again, there are no right or wrong answers. Many owners are keen to take their pet home one last time and bury them in a particularly special spot, while others may choose to have their pet cremated and their ashes scattered somewhere similarly poignant. Pet crematoriums, such as North and South Carolinas’ pet cremation service, the Furever Friends Petuary, are designed to assist you in every aspect of planning your pet’s final journey, and you’ll no doubt take comfort from their support and guidance through memorial options.
Create a memorial
If you were able to take photographs prior to your pet’s passing, or you have items that remind you of your time together, now would be a good time to get creative and to turn your grief into something productive. Rather than hiding pictures away for fear of causing upset, allow friends and family members to revel in the happier memories created during your pet’s lifetime. If your pet was particularly fond of the garden, consider planting a tree, shrub, or flower in their memory, or laying a plaque so that you always have somewhere to go on anniversaries and memorable dates. You may find that your pet’s continued presence helps with your healing.
Lastly, acknowledge that it may take some time to get over the loss of your pet, particularly if their death was sudden or unexpected. Don’t rush yourself to feel better as quickly as those around you may appear to have done, but be realistic regarding your acceptance of your loss. We often approach the death of a pet in the same way as we would losing a dear friend or relative, so prepare yourself for the fact that the heartbreak may never truly leave. Instead, the raw emotion will simply fade over time until you’re able to cope with your loss in a more creative or constructive way. It can be tempting to jump into pet parenthood again, but only home a new animal if you feel ready to – don’t attempt to replace one set of emotions with another.
Know this: coping with your grief will get easier, and there are so many resources to be found if you’re struggling.