More than 60% of US households have at least one pet. We are a nation of animal lovers, and many of us take great pleasure in devoting love, time, and attention to furry and feathered friends. The trouble with adding new members to your family is that they don’t live forever. Losing a pet can feel like losing a friend or relative. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to cope with the loss of a treasured family pet.
Taking time to say goodbye
Many of us have strong bonds with our pets, and we build up relationships that bring a huge amount of contentment and happiness. Saying goodbye can be incredibly tough but if you find yourself in a situation where you have the opportunity to bid your companion farewell, it can be comforting to share that moment with them. If your vet recommends putting your pet to sleep, or they have an illness that cannot be treated, for example, you may prefer to be with them until the end and to ensure that they are not alone when they drift off the sleep. At the time, the emotion can be overwhelming but later, you can take solace from the fact that you were there for them when they needed you most. Take your time to say your goodbyes and to hold and cuddle them.
Planning a ceremony and creating a memorial
Some pet owners like the idea of planning a ceremony or creating a memorial for their furry friend but you can celebrate your pet’s life in whichever way you wish. While some people might want to invite a few friends and family members and have a short service in a garden, a park, or a beauty spot they used to love, others will prefer to take a more low-key approach. You might want to keep pet urns in the house with you, bury ashes or add a grave marker so that you can visit your pet and feel close to them. Remembering your pet is a personal matter, and you shouldn’t feel pressure to do anything you don’t want to do. Some people are more comfortable with having a marker in the garden or an urn in the house and keeping the memories in their mind while others want to organize a gathering or a ceremony to say a final goodbye.
Taking time to grieve
For many people, pets are like family members. We have lots of fun with our pets but they also provide emotional support, and for some, they can be a major contributor to mental health and wellbeing. People depend on their pets, they confide in them, they turn to them when they’re going through tough times and they take comfort from the fact that their pets are always there for a cuddle. It’s no exaggeration to say that losing a pet can feel like losing a relative or a close friend. When you lose a pet, the house can feel empty, and it can be incredibly distressing to try and process what has happened. It’s important to take time to grieve. It’s natural to experience different emotions and to feel upset and distraught. Let yourself grieve and don’t put any pressure on yourself to get back to ‘normal’ as fast as possible. Some people will start to feel better within days while others will grieve for months, even years. Allow yourself to cry, to feel sad, and to miss your pet. There’s no shame in grieving.
Loss is one of the most difficult hurdles we face as human beings. We tend to think about bereavement as the loss of human companions but the death of a much-loved family pet can hit us equally hard. Whenever you go through difficult times or you feel sad, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you could do with a shoulder to cry on, or you need a hug. Lean on your friends and family and talk about how you feel if you’re comfortable doing so. You could also consider talking to a therapist if you’re struggling to cope with the loss, or your pet’s death has left you feeling isolated or lonely. There are also nonprofits that can help with grieving. It can also be beneficial to chat with other pet owners. It can be difficult to explain how much the loss of a pet can impact you if you’re talking to people who have never had a pet before. Talking to people who have been in the same situation can provide comfort, and you might also find that they have tips or coping mechanisms you could try.
Looking after yourself
Dealing with grief can be difficult whether you’ve lost a pet or a family member or a friend. When you feel sad or you miss that person or furry friend, your health and wellbeing might not be a priority but it’s crucial to look after yourself. Try to eat well, get out into the fresh air and stretch your legs and make sure you take the time to rest and recharge your batteries. Devote time to doing things that make you feel better. Socialize with friends and family members who will lift you up and support you, express yourself through creative activities, talking or writing, and use exercise as a means of channeling emotions. Many people find that activities like hiking, jogging, boxing, swimming, playing golf and going to dance, spin or HIIT classes can help to clear the mind, manage emotions and lower stress levels.
For many pet owners, their companion is a member of the family. Losing a pet can be devastating and it can take a long time to heal. If you’ve recently lost a furry friend, or you have old pets who may not live much longer, it’s important to understand that there is no shame or embarrassment in grieving for pets and to reach out. You’re not alone, and there is help and support available.