Coping with Losing a Pet
Your pet becomes part of your family, which includes an intense love and bond. It is natural to feel a huge loss with feelings of grief and sadness when a pet passes away. This loss can be overwhelming and trigger painful and difficult emotions. You don't need to feel guilty or ashamed about grieving for your loved animal. Once you acknowledge the pain of your loss, you can begin the process of moving forward.
The Grieving Process
Grieving is different for everyone. Some people go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, guilt, depression, and acceptance. Others find that the grief comes in waves with a series of highs and lows. Most people will still experience a strong sense of grief when something triggers a strong memory.
The grieving process happens gradually. As much as we want to hurry the process, there is no "normal" timeline for grieving. Some people begin to feel better within weeks or months, while others grieve for years. It is important to be patient with yourself, so your natural grief process can happen.
Feelings of sadness, shock, and loneliness are normal reactions to the loss of a pet. These feelings do not mean that you are weak, it means that you are mourning a loss. Trying to ignore the pain will only make it worse in the long run. It is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it. By expressing your grief, you will most likely need less time to heal than if you bottle up these feelings. You can write about your feelings or talk about them with loved ones or a professional (we can help).
Coping with the Grief
Experiencing the above symptoms are a natural response to a pet passing away, but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain.
1) Don't let anyone tell you how to feel
Your grief is personal and no one can tell you when it's time to "move on". Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel without embarrassment or judgment. It is okay to be angry, cry, laugh, find moments of joy, and let go when you are ready.
2) Rituals can help healing
Take some time to meet with family or friends to talk about your pet or hold a small ceremony in remembrance. This can help you and others close to your pet openly express feelings.
3) Create a legacy
Try planting a tree or compiling a photo album for your pet. This can create something to celebrate the life of your companion and remind you of the fun and love you shared with your pet.
4) Look after yourself
The stress of losing a pet can negatively impact your energy and emotional stability. Make sure you are physically and emotionally looking after your needs. Try to eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and exercise.
5) Try to maintain a normal routine if you have other pets
Surviving pets can also experience the loss of another pet passing away. They may become distressed, so maintaining their daily routines will benefit them.
6) Seek professional help
If your grief is persistent or interfering with your ability to function, a therapist can help you cope in healthy ways.