Coping With Pet Loss
As pet owners, saying goodbye to our pet is one of the hardest things we will ever do. Our society doesn’t place much importance on the grief process in general, and even less so if we are grieving pet loss. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation during a time when we need the most support.
Huntington Veterinary Hospital knows first hand that this is a serious and difficult time for pet owners. As your partners in compassionate pet care, we have a few tips to share and are here for you if you need additional assistance.
Coping With Pet Loss
Following the loss of a pet, we need to allow ourselves to feel the depth of the loss and whatever grief and pain come with it. According to the Argus Institute for Families at the Colorado State University Veterinary School, trying to speed up the grief process may actually prolong it.
Here are some strategies for coping with pet loss.
Talk about it. One of the best things you can do is to find people to talk with about your loss. Ideally this is someone who will allow you to speak at length and reminisce as much as you need. Find a support group, or call a pet loss grief hotline, so you can take the time you need.
Don’t skip self care. Coping with pet loss is not the time to skip caring for yourself. You need rest, exercise, and to eat healthfully to feel your best. It’s easy to skip your own care when helping others – especially children- cope, but put your own oxygen mask on first.
Address any feelings of guilt. If you’ve made the decision for euthanasia, you may be harboring feelings of guilt. As veterinary professionals, we view euthanasia as a gift we can give animals to spare their suffering. Talk to us about euthanasia if you would like a veterinarian’s perspective.
Ask questions. If you have unanswered questions about your pet’s death, we also encourage you to reach out. Make an appointment to resolve your concerns, so you can more easily move forward without question or doubt.
Take the time you need. Everyone’s grief process is different. It’s okay to take time to process the loss of your pet in the way that feels right to you. Whatever memories of your pet are left in your home – from pictures, to their belongings, to pet hair or muddy pawprints – don’t feel rushed to put them away or just “get over it”, for example.
Help children cope. Children feel pet loss deeply, too, and just like adults, they deserve the time and space to grieve their pet in their own unique ways. Young children tend to process grief through doing, so experts recommend finding ways to honor your pet’s life with remembrances your children can participate in.
Celebrating Your Pet’s Life
A celebration of your pet’s life can be a wonderful way to process feelings of loss. Here are some ideas for memorializing your pet.
- Light a candle for your pet and talk about special memories.
- Draw a picture with your kids and talk about your pet.
- Hold a celebration of life ceremony with friends and family.
- Plant a tree or a flower in memory of your pet.
- Create a memory box with special objects, pictures, and a written memory or two.
- Do something kind for other animals or the shelter in the name of your pet.
- Place your pet’s tags or nose print on a keychain or a chain to wear.
- Send cards to people who were involved in your pet’s care, such as your veterinarian, groomer, and pet sitter.
- Put on a puppet show with your kids to remember your pet’s happy times.
It’s Ok to Remember Your Pet
No matter how you’re grieving your pet, know that it is an active process. You don’t have to ignore how you feel, or “just move on”. It may sound strange, but recalling happy memories of your pet is a healthy pastime.
If you’d like more resources, or have questions, please call us. We’re here to help.