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Loss of a pet – ways to cope

For most people, children and adults alike, pets are more than just animals; they are members of the family and even best friends. Sadly, the joy of owning a pet goes hand-in hand with the pain and heartbreak that accompanies losing one. The reasons for the loss could be old age, illness, or accidents.

Dealing with such loss can be difficult, but even while the loss of a pet is unavoidable, there are ways to cope with the loss, comfort yourself and others, and begin the process of moving on.

Understanding the grief

People feel grief on different levels and the level of grief depends on a number of factors such as your age and personality (the senior citizens and small children tend to feel the loss of a pet more), the age of your pet, and the circumstances of their death; if a pet has been with you for a long time, and it died of a protracted illness, you will tend to feel the pain more. Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience.

Some people believe that the loss of a pet should not hurt as much as human loss. They may not understand your grief because they do not have a pet of their own or they do not understand the companionship a pet offers. You don’t have to argue with such people, all you need do is come to terms with the fact that the support you need might not come from your immediate circle of friends and family. Seek out people who have experienced the loss of a pet as they should be able to offer you good advice on how to cope with your loss.

These are a few tips that could help you with coping with the loss:

  • Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t try to get yourself to react in a way you think people will think is right. Your grief is yours alone and you are free to express it how you want to.
  • Reach out to others who have lost pets. Find friends, family, co-workers and other people who have lost a pet. They should be able to offer you the support you need.
  • Seek professional help if you need it, especially for persistent grief and depression.
  • Rituals can help to heal. If holding a funeral or a memorial service feels right to you, go ahead and do it.
  • Look after yourself. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release hormones that will help improve your mood
  • Stay connected with friends. For senior citizens, it is important that you do not spend day after day on your own. Stay connected with your friends, join a club or go out for lunch with people.
  • Explain the loss to your children. Be honest with them. If you are going to tell them the pet was put to sleep, make sure they understand the difference between death and ordinary sleep. Do not criticize you children for grieving or criticize their pain, it may have far reaching effects.

Some recommended Resources for Children:

  • Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children, Linda Goldman;
    Accelerated Development; Taylor & Francis Group, (800) 821-8312; 1994
  • Because of Flowers and Dancers, Sandra S. Brackenridge; Veterinary Practice Publishing Co.; 1994.
  • Dog Heaven, Cat Heaven, Cynthia Rylant; The Blue Press; Scholastic, Inc.
  • Desser the Best Ever Cat, Maggie Smith; Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; 2001
  • Goodbye Mousie, Robie H. Harris; Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Grunt, Suzanne Schlossberg, Tamberrino, Centering Corporation; 2001
  • Saying Goodbye to Lulu, Corinne Demas; Little, Brown and Company; 2004
    General resources for grieving the loss of a pet
  • Coping With Death of Pet – Details on understanding pet loss grief and how to cope with the pain and sadness. (Recover-from-grief.com)
  • Coping With the Death of Your Pet – Tips on how to cope when it’s time to say goodbye to a beloved pet. (The Humane Society of the United States)

Pet loss hotlines and bereavement resources: In the U.S.: Call the ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline at (877) GRIEF-10 or visit Pet Loss and Bereavement Resource Directory for more hotlines and bereavement resources.

Hopefully, some of this information will help you navigate your way through the grieving process. Remember to be kind to yourself. Time doesn’t heal all wounds like the old adage says but there are some things you can do along the way to promote healing.

Over the years, Tailored Pet Services has said goodbye to a number of our furry clients who have gone to the Rainbow Bridge. To honor their memory, we give the client access to all the photos we’ve taken while pet was in our care.