Understanding and Coping with Pet Loss: 3 Things All Pet Owners Need to Know
Anyone who owns a pet and considers their pet to be a family member and close friend knows how heartbreaking it can be when our beloved companion dies. The bond we establish with our pets can cause many of us to feel an intense sense of loss and sadness that is very similar to losing an immediate family member. There are some important things that all pet owners should know if they have just experienced the loss of a pet or are facing difficult decisions with the expected loss of a pet.
1. It is normal to feel sorry for a pet.
Experiencing grief over the death of a pet is normal and natural, so don’t feel embarrassed or embarrassed to grieve for your pet as you would for a person. The relationship that pet owners have with their pets is significant. Some pet owners have raised their dog or cat since they were puppies or kittens, and it’s natural to feel that we’re not just pet owners, but also parents who have cared for and bonded with a pet. Pets have personality and intelligence, and provide a constant source of unconditional love and acceptance, which is a profound need to live a healthy and meaningful life. There may be people who “don’t understand” the animal-human bond, and don’t understand the pain you suffer. Your feelings are valid and you are not alone.
2. Understand what a complaint can mean to you
There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a loved one because people grieve in their own way. People tend to experience the loss of a pet the same way they would a person, which can involve the 5 stages of grievance and loss including: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.
Losing a pet can be a surreal experience as you find yourself going through your daily routines and finding it difficult to accept that your pet is truly gone. From coming home to work with them greeting you at the door, to taking them out for walks, it’s hard to imagine them not being there. Depression is a deceptive emotion because it is a natural response to hurt, but it can also result in an inability to deal with your feelings. Severe depression that is ongoing can feel draining and cause you to dwell on your grief rather than process it and gradually work through it.
The grievance may involve a feeling of guilt if you had to put your pet down, or feel responsible for its death, which could make resolving your grievance very difficult. Pet owners may also feel anger toward themselves or others if their pet dies unexpectedly from being hit by a car or from becoming ill. Anger is also a natural emotion, but it must be addressed if it becomes so intense that it prevents you from resolving your grievance.
Acknowledge what you are feeling and then check in with yourself. People struggle with a loss when they don’t take the time to grieve, often believing that it will just go away.
3. Process your complaint
Pet owners can fall into the trap of hiding their feelings in order to appear strong and calm for the benefit of others, or to avoid feeling judged or embarrassed for feeling vulnerable over the loss. Once you’ve begun to acknowledge what you’re feeling, find a way to express it. Expressing what we feel in the midst of our pain can include crying alone and with others. What can be very helpful in the grieving process is finding what helps you the most. Recalling happy memories with your pet and sharing stories with family can help you and others understand how much your pets mean to people.
Expressing emotions and memories through stories, reading poems like the Rainbow Bridge for Pets, or writing letters of thanks to your pet can help you and your children through the grievance process. Changing your daily routine to fill in the time you and your family would have spent with your pet can help you come to terms with the loss and move on. Having a keepsake at home with the family, such as a photo of you and your pet, or having keepsakes like your necklace can help preserve their memory and acknowledge that they are gone.
4. Help your children learn about complaints
Children are never too young or too old to grieve the loss of a pet. Discussing the loss of a pet with the whole family gives everyone the opportunity to learn about the death, remember their pet fondly, and grieve at their own pace. Being honest with them about the loss of a pet may be the first time they learn what death is and it will give you an opportunity to talk with them about any fears or misperceptions they may have about death. If you tell them that their pet has been “put to sleep,” make sure they understand the difference between normal sleep and death to avoid confusion and possible sleep fears. You can comfort him by telling him that his pet is not in pain, but avoid telling him that his pet ran away or left because he may think she may come back. Children need time to get over the hurt and loss before adopting a new pet. It is best for children and all pet owners to adopt a new pet when they are ready to move on and build a new relationship after a period of grieving the loss.
Is there someone who can help me with this?
The most important step you can take is to be honest about your feelings. Don’t deny your pain, or your feelings of anger and guilt. Only by examining and coming to terms with your feelings can you begin to work through them. Getting over feelings of loss with another person is one of the healthiest ways to deal with it.
We often turn to our family and friends for the loss of our pets, as they will often understand what you are going through and even grieve with you. If you don’t have family or friends you can turn to for support, or if you need more help in resolving your complaint, then find a support group or therapist for complaint advice.