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How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet

When someone you love dies, it's natural to feel sorrow, express grief, and expect friends and family to provide comfort. Although people often feel the same feelings of grief when you lose a beloved pet, please remember that these may go unacknowledged by others! 

Your grief is normal, and it’s important to mourn the relationship you had with your pet. 

 

The grief process 

The grief process is not linear. You may shift in and out of the stages of grief, going back and forth, rather than experiencing each stage in a neat and sequential order. It’s not uncommon for a wave of grief to wash over you from nowhere. The process typically begins with denial, which offers protection until individuals realise their loss. 

Some feel anger, which may be directed at anyone involved with the pet, including family, friends, and vets. Some may also feel guilty about what happened and then feel shame for feeling so upset. 

After these feelings subside, you may experience true sadness or grief. You may become withdrawn or depressed. Acceptance occurs when you come to terms with the reality of the loss. 


Remember, healthy grieving does not mean that you forget or get over your lost friend; it allows you to accept that they are gone and eventually learn to smile at their memory. 

  

Helping to cope with grief 

Although grief is a personal experience, you do not need to face it alone. Acknowledge your grief and permit yourself to express it. Allow yourself to cry. Suppressing your feelings can prolong your grief!


Try not to replay your last moments with your pet in your mind; it's common to do this, but instead, please try to focus on the life you shared with your pet and remember some of your favourite memories with them.

Remember, your pet isn’t in pain any longer; you are the one in pain now, and you must care for yourself. Make sure you reach out to others who can lend you a sympathetic ear. Do a little research online and read other people's experiences. You are not alone. 


Memorialise your pet. Whether it be to: 

  • Spread their ashes somewhere special. 

  • Reserve a place in your home for their ashes and photos. 

  • Plant a tree in their memory. 

  • Create a memory box with their collar and favourite toys. 

  • Purchase a memorial memento or just a simple dream catcher to hang over their favourite place in your home. 

  • Share your most cherished photos of your pet via social media.

Whichever way works for you is the right way.


Helping children understand pet loss 

Understandably, you may want to protect your child by saying that the pet ‘ran away', for instance, but this doesn’t allow your child to move through the stages of grief in an emotionally healthy way. Your child may expect the pet's return and feel betrayed or confused once they discover the truth!  

If your pet’s death is expected, you can prepare children for the loss by allowing them to say goodbye. If the death was unexpected, then share the truth in an age-appropriate way. 

Losing a pet will most likely be a child's first experience with death. The child may blame themselves, their parents, or the vet for not saving their loved one. They may feel guilty, sad, or frightened that others they love may be taken from them. Expressing your grief may reassure your child that sadness is fine and help them work through their feelings. 


Children may also receive help from taking part in grief rituals alongside you. If not appropriate, then ask them to draw pictures of their pet or even write to their pet. 

   

Understanding your surviving pets 

Surviving pets may whimper, refuse to eat or drink, or be constantly sad - especially if they had a close bond with the pet who has passed. Even if they didn’t seem close, pets thrive on consistency, and losing another animal in the home as well as your emotional state may distress them.

Give surviving pets lots of love and comfort, keep them well-fed and watered, and try to maintain their normal routine.


If they continue to mope excessively or refuse to eat, then contact your veterinarian for advice. 

  

Is it time for another pet? 

Rushing into this decision is not fair on you or your potential new pet. 

Every furry friend has a unique personality, and a new pet can never replace the one you lost. New pets will go through a change period, which may be difficult to manage when you and other pets in the home are still adjusting to a loss yourselves. 

 

You'll know when the time is right for you and your home for a new pet but only after giving yourself time to grieve - this is important. 


And when you are ready for your next special friend, try not to compare. Adjust to their personalities and simply shower them with love and affection. 

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