Ask anyone who has had the privilege of having a beloved animal in their lives and they’ll tell you that one of the most difficult aspects of pet ownership is contending with the idea that they will one day have to leave their side.
All pet owners must face the reality that one day, their animal friends will pass away due to injury, illness, or old age. While the process of dying might be difficult for your pet, it can also be overwhelming for you, as negative thoughts and uncomfortable feelings take over.
To survive the grief that follows a pet loss, you must find healthy ways to mourn. When you engage in self-care, formally say goodbye, cherish memories, love other animals, and possibly seek professional help, you honor your pet’s presence in your life and begin the healing process.
Make Space For Your Personal Journey Through Mourning
After a pet has died, many pet owners find themselves at a loss as they confront shock, loneliness, and the emptiness that an absent pet leaves in a home. If you are aware that your pet is dying, it can be a good idea to make decisions about how you’ll handle its remains, either with a burial or cremation, before it actually passes away.
This can relieve you of extra stress and allow you to easily enter the mourning phase, which can include grappling with difficult questions about identity, meaning, and spirituality.
While contending with your grief, understand that there is no “right” way to mourn, and the healing process can entail feeling emotions that ebb and flow in both duration and intensity. Allow yourself as much time as you need to come to terms with your loss.
Honor Your Pet With A Formal Sendoff
If you are the type of person who needs to process grief in a physical manner, you can look into hands-on ways to say goodbye to your pet. One possibility is conducting a formal funeral.
You can hold a simple ceremony in your backyard, invite friends and family, and even incorporate your remaining pets into any proceedings.
A funeral can be a great opportunity to share memories and express gratitude for having had your pet in your life.
If you are contemplating what do to with your pet’s remains after a cremation, you can also allot some time to consecrating the ashes in a respectful manner, such as planting them with a tree or adding them to your garden.
Many times, when a beloved pet leaves us, it’s often beautiful memories that sustain us and help us move past grief. Although remembering a pet can be painful sometimes, it can also remind us of the joy that they brought to our lives and the love that we shared with them.
Consider compiling scrapbooks, photo albums, or even a website in loving tribute to your pet, and share your happy memories with others when the appropriate time arises.
You can also keep a simple reminder of your pet in your home, such as a favorite toy, to remind you of the bond that you shared and that your pet will always be a part of your heart.
Share Your Love With Another Animal
Many people consider adopting a new pet immediately after their previous pets die. For some individuals, including the disabled and the elderly, an animal can provide much-needed emotional support and companionship.
Most pet owners, however, should take the appropriate time to grieve their lost pets before committing themselves to loving and caring for another animal. Work through your emotions and decide which kind of pet, if any, you’d like to care for when you’re ready.
If you decide to open your home to another animal, don’t expect your new pet to adopt the same personality or habits that your old one had; each pet is unique and should be respected as its own individual being.
Reach Out for More Support
Having a pet die can be an incredibly overwhelming experience, regardless of whether you’ve had your furry friend in your life for weeks or years.
Often, bereaved pet owners can find themselves suffering through the same emotions that they experience when they lose a loved one: They can be confused, depressed, angry and distraught.
If your grief is unrelenting, consider reaching out to friends and family who know what it’s like to cope with a dying pet and recover from the loss.
If your close loved ones are unwilling or unable to offer advice, call pet loss hotlines or join support groups, read articles about coping with pet loss, or visit Internet message boards to connect with others who understand.
And don’t hesitate to sign up for therapy if you feel that you need more structured, professional support.
- Why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously
- How to Cope With the Loss of a Dog
- Coping With the Death of Your Pet
- How to Deal With the Loss of a Pet
- The Death of a Pet Can Hurt as Much as the Loss of a Relative
- Helping Kids Deal With Pet Loss
- Remembering a Beloved Pet: Memorializing Pets for Kids
- How to Help a Dog Grieving an Animal Friend
- Supporting Pets That Have Lost a Playmate
- Pet Loss Hotline: Find Support
- Burial Costs and Insurance
- CARE Pet Loss Helpline
- After One Pet Dies, Should You Get Another One?