Coping with the loss of a Pet
Our pets offer us unconditional love and support. They are always there for us, no matter what kind of mood we are in. They see us through the many different transitions of our lives. Pets are often the one constant, comforting and dependable relationship through difficult and changing times. They teach us how to become better at giving out love and acceptance.
Our pets become part of our identity: I was Blackie’s mom, Winston’s buddy. Our pets give us a sense of purpose and meaning because they depend on us to take care of their basic needs. Pets fill our basic need for physical touch and affection. Our arms feel empty when we can no longer hold, cuddle, and snuggle with our beloved pets. A pet loss can be extra difficult because some of our friends, family, and co-workers may not understand. They might say something like “Get over it … it’s only an animal.”
You feel devastated and broken-hearted. Time will help you heal. Allow yourself to feel the feelings, but if that becomes too painful, take a break, and distract yourself by doing something altogether different.
Guilt and Anger.
If you made the decision to humanely euthanize your animal, it comes with some degree of guilt. You may also be wondering, “Is there something I could have done differently to have prevented a health condition or improved their quality of life?” We need to remember the good life we gave to our furry friends and that we did the best we could. To let go of the angry feelings and begin to find peace, focus on the feelings of love and acceptance shared in your special bond or reminisce about an especially joyful time together.
Be gentle with yourself. Take it a day at a time. Give yourself what you need: comfort food, naps, quiet time, a day off, time with friends. Talk with people who understand. Talking about your feelings with others who have gone through the same loss can help. There are people who understand!
Waves of grief.
With pet loss grief, these ups and downs are more common than moving through predictable stages. Allow yourself to go through the grief in your own way and at your own pace. You won’t forget your pet, but there will come a time where you will be able to remember your loved one with more smiles and joy rather than tears and sadness.
Your house will feel empty. It doesn’t matter whether there are still other pets living there. You may find yourself calling your late pet’s name out of habit, or if you have one of those pets-allowed-on-the-furniture houses you’ll probably miss snuggling up on the couch or in the bed together at night.
Consider volunteering at a shelter or fostering a pet. Remember that our pets thrive on bringing us joy and happiness. We owe it to our furry friends to carry on the legacy of love, and not just shut down and protect ourselves. Finally, remember that you are blessed. After all, you were privileged to be the person who shared that special animal’s life. You developed a unique bond that changed who you are for the better, and that can never be taken away. Your furry friend’s spirit will live in your heart forever.