Losing a beloved pet can be a devastating emotional experience. With the average pet lifespan being 10-15 years, these four-legged friends spend quite a pet of their life with you making memories, making friends and helping you through some of your roughest times.
For those of you going through grief after losing a pet, here are some helpful tips on how to cope. Now keep in mind, grief is not necessarily a linear process for everyone. Each step may take more or less time for you or your loved ones to go through, and that is completely normal.
Step 1: Preparing for loss
“The time” comes differently for each animal. Whether it be age, an illness or a traumatic accident, at some point every pet owner will have to come to terms that their pet is not immortal.
Deciding whether or not to euthanize can be one of the hardest decisions. It’s best to discuss your options with your veterinarian beforehand and prepare yourself for a whirlwind of emotions to come, no matter your decision.
Step 2: Right before death
Spend the day with your pet doing some of their favorite things. Be there to comfort them and show them how much they mean to you.
Consider taking a photograph or stamping their paw print, these can be a cherished momento to keep with you after they pass to remember them by.
Step 3: Allow yourself to be upset
Bottling up your emotions is not healthy. Reach out to friends and family in this time for comfort. Forget about any mumbo jumbo about them being “just a pet”. The bond that humans share with pets is unconditional and very special in a way that many human relationships are not. Allow yourself to cry and not feel guilty.
Clarissa Rodriguez, owner of 3-year-old German Shepherd, Mya Marie, who passed earlier this month says, “Losing your baby is not easy. I’m personally still trying to find ways to cope, I just take it day by day. Just know that it’s okay to cry.”
Step 4: Remember your pet
Even though it hurts at first, don’t try to go on pretending that you never had a pet. Remembering your cherished memories is the only healthy path to closure. Saving photos, momentos, and even collars or toys can have a comforting reminder that your pet is still with you in memory.
“Don’t feel like you need to get rid of anything, heck, it been two weeks and I’m still carrying Mya’s favorite toy in my purse.” Rodriguez says, “But most importantly just remember each and every memory you had with your pet. Those are what truly keep you going when times get hard.”
Step 5: Go on with life
Although this step can be very difficult and take different amounts of time for each person, it is essential to continue on with your life. Reconnect with your friends and family and spend time doing things that make you happy.
Don’t shut yourself off or allow yourself to continue to be upset to a point that it effects your well-being. If you find that your day-to-day life is being interrupted by chronic depression over your loss, it’s best to seek a professional to help you continue through the your grieving process.
Step 6: Consider adopting a new pet
It can be hard getting past the guilt that you are “replacing” your pet. However no two animals are alike, they all have distinct personalities. Each pet will always have a special place in your heart, no need to feel guilty. Always remember that your pet will always be with you in memory and nothing can take that away.
According to statistics from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, over 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters each year,and almost 2.7 million never find a forever home. Adopting a new pet gives the chance to better another animal’s life and the time caring for a new pet may be just what you need to take your mind of off things.
Overall, loosing a pet can be one of the most difficult things pet owners have to go through. There are several steps that you must take in order to cope and regain your normal life again. Hopefully with these tips, you found some advice to help the next time you or a friend finds themselves grieving for a pet.