When a person you love dies, it is natural and normal to feel sorrow and sadness. Our friends and family comfort us and support us in our grief. The loss of a pet can cause the same or more intense feelings of sorrow and grief but our family, friends, and co-workers may not acknowledge what we are going through. So first and most importantly please know that your feelings are normal and real. Loosing a pet can be even more devastating than loosing a loved one. There are a number of reasons for this. Our relationship with our beloved pet is very different than any other relationship we have. Our pets love us unconditionally, are completely there for us during times of happiness and troubles, and never leave us. Our pets are children that never grow up and leave home.
The grief process
The grief process is not linear and is quite complex. You might simultaneously feel sad, depressed, angry, afraid, guilt and so much more. Because of the emotional complexity of grief the amount of time that it takes for you to grieve may be different than someone else, as the relationship you shared with your pet is unique to you. Remember, healthy grieving does not mean that you will forget or “get over” your beloved friend. The grief process is the time you need to accept that your pet is not their physically but you carry their love and the memory of them with you always. Thoughts of my pets that have passed often bring a tear to my eye but also always a smile.
Each of us grieves in our own way and in our own time. Although grief is a personal experience, remember you do not need to go through
this alone. Here are a few suggestions to help you navigate this time:
- Acknowledge your grief and what you are feeling. Give yourself the opportunity to express it. Permit yourself to cry. If you live alone, the silence in your home might feel deafening but acknowledging and not running away from what you are feeling with help you travel through the process.
- Try not to dwell on your last moments with your pet. Many times those final days were traumatic and hard. Instead try to focus on the life you shared with your pet, silly things they did, how they made you smile and laugh. I recommend creating a Smile Journal where you can write down these experiences.
- Reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear and have lost a four legged companion. This might be a friend or family member who understands your loss. Also, there are support programs available Myself and others have offered support groups and programs so you do not need to travel this journey on your own.
- The Pet Compassion Careline, provides 24/7 grief support with trained pet grief counselors and Laps of Love, which provides grief courses and 50-minute one-on-one support sessions with a grief counselor.
- Reach out to your local religious congregations some of them offer support for pet loss.
- Letter Writing: Write your pet a letter and have them write you back. This is a wonderful way to get perspective and express the love you shared.
- A Special Place: Have a special place in your home for photos, your pet’s collar, favorite toy as a little memorial for your pet. Another beautiful practice is to plant a tree in memory of your pet or before they are buried or cremated to take a paw print and place it inside or outside.
- Painting or a Statue. We all take loads of photos of our pets, or at least I do. I had a painting done from one of my favorite photos. Losing your pet is hard and know that you will get through this. If Tonka and I can help in anyway please feel free to connect with us.