Coping with the Loss of a Pet
The grief felt when a pet passes away can be just as intense as when a fellow human passes away. It isn't always easy to know how to help yourself grieve for a pet.
Recently, my family's twenty-month-old cat, Deedee, passed away.
We were all upset by her passing, my husband, myself, my two children, and even our other cat. Having never had pets before, I was unsure how to handle the loss and found myself struggling with my own emotions regarding the loss.
Don't Feel Crazy
One of the biggest differences between grieving the loss of a fellow human, and grieving the loss of a pet, is that a pet's death is often not recognized by others. Others fail to see how significant the loss is. You may feel intense feelings of sadness and grief as a reaction to your pets death. This is normal, and okay. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Do not feel as though you're crazy for getting so upset over a pet.
Reflect on Your Pet's Life
Reflecting may help you to process your pet's death. You may even feel better writing out your reflections about your pet. Think about how your pet came into your life and the things the two of you did together. Was your pet present for any significant life events, such as marriage, graduation, the birth of a baby, the death of a family member?
Think about the habits your pet had, such as sleeping at your feet, hiding from the vacuum, or attempting to chase the pointer across your computer screen. Remembering these things may help bring closure and reassure you that your pet did have a good life with you.
Remember Your Pet
Sometimes a pet owner will feel better by taking any photos they have of their pet and arranging them in an album or frame. Going through these photos may help bring closure to the grief, as well as ensure that your pet will not be forgotten.
Don't Bottle Up Your Feelings
It can be easy to bottle up your feelings, especially if it seems as though no one around you understands. Don't bottle up your feelings. If you feel like crying, then do so. If you feel like talking, then do so. Finding someone supportive, who cares about you, to talk about your feelings with may help the healing process.
Continue Your Normal Routine
It may seem easier, and even more appealing, to shut down and ignore the rest of the world, but it's important to continue your normal routine while grieving. This is especially true if you have young children who may also be dealing with their own feelings of grief. Maintaining your normal activities may seem difficult at first, but will help you to continue on with your life.
Don't Feel Guilty
Many pet owners wonder if there was something else they could have done to prevent their pet's death. Other times, pet owners had their pets euthanized and feel guilty for doing so, even if they know it was in their pet's best interest. Don't beat yourself up feeling guilty for what you could have done. The past cannot be changed, and decisions made, were most likely the best possible option at the time they were made.
Give Yourself Time to Heal
Many pet owners who have lost a pet make the mistake of getting a new pet too soon. Grief is a natural process and one that needs to be experienced in order to move on. Getting a new pet too soon, can hinder the process of grieving, and it may be more difficult on the pet owner to form a bond with the new pet. Give yourself time to grieve and don't consider a new pet until you've had time to cope with the loss of your previous pet.