As pet owners, one of the hardest things we will ever have to do is to say goodbye to our beloved pet. Since they don’t normally outlive us, this event will likely affect us all. Additionally, our society doesn’t place much importance on coping with pet loss, and so losing a pet can often feel lonely and overwhelming.
Maywood Veterinary Clinic knows that this is a serious and difficult time. Come with us as we explore some ideas for coping with pet loss.
Coping With Pet Loss
Many pet owners don’t realize the depth of loss they will feel when losing a pet. It’s important to allow yourself the time you need to grieve in your own way. According to the Argus Institute for Families at the Colorado State University Veterinary School, trying to speed up the grieving process can actually prolong it.
Here are some tips for coping with pet loss.
Don’t skip self-care – Coping with pet loss is not the time to skip caring for yourself. It’s easy to focus on helping others – especially children – cope, but remember to eat and drink healthily, exercise, and get enough rest yourself, too.
Address feelings of guilt – If you’ve made the decision for euthanasia, you may be harboring feelings of guilt. As veterinary professionals, we see euthanasia as a gift we can give animals to spare their suffering and pain. Talk to us about any guilty feelings if you’d like our veterinarian’s perspective.
Talk about it – Find people who understand your situation and will listen without judgment. Friends and family can be wonderful resources for venting feelings of sadness and loss. A trusted therapist or the pet loss grief support hotline at the ASPCA can be other good resources.
Put any questions to rest – If you have uncertainty about how your pet died, we encourage you to make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian. Resolving your concerns can help you move forward without any questions or doubts.
Take your time – Everyone’s grief process is different. It’s okay to take the time you need to work through your feelings before you have to “move on”. Whatever memories of your pet are left in your home – from pet hair to pictures, to their bed and belongings – don’t feel rushed to put things away or to “get over it”.
Help children cope – Just like adults, children deserve the time and space to grieve in their own way. Young children in particular process their feelings through action. So most experts recommend finding ways to honor your pet with actions that children can participate in.
Honoring Your Pet
Sometimes taking action can help us to process feelings of loss. Celebrating your pet’s life, helping your children cope, and memorializing your pet can all help us to feel better. Here are some ideas.
- Draw a picture of your pet with your kids, and talk about happy memories
- Put on a “puppet” show with your kids about your pet’s happy times
- Hold a celebration of life ceremony with friends and family – no caterers required
- Plant a tree or a flower in memory of your pet
- Light a candle for your pet or release a balloon into the sky
- Create a memory box with pictures, special objects, and a written memory or two
- Place your pet’s tags on a keychain or chain to wear around your neck
- Send cards to people who were involved in your pet’s care, such as groomers, pet sitters, and veterinarians
- Do something kind for other animals or for an animal cause
No matter how you’re dealing with pet loss, remember that grief is an active process. You don’t have to ignore how you feel or try to stuff it down. It may sound strange, but recalling happy pet memories is a healthy pastime.
If you’d like more resources or have any questions please reach out to us. We’re here to help.