Coping with the loss of a pet

Pets often become beloved members of the family, and when they die, the loss can be very traumatic. From hamsters, to cats, dogs, horses and everything in between, no matter what the animal, losing a beloved pet isĀ never easy and it is only natural to grieve.

Everyone grieves differently, and grief can be complicated by the role your pet played in your life. What is important to know though, if your faithful friend has passed away, it is normal to feel sad or angry.
Grieving is personal and individual; sometimes it comes in stages, commonly called the five stages of grief when you might experience feelings such as denial, anger, guilt and depression, eventually followed by the feeling of acceptance and resolution. Other people may suffer from waves of emotion, or a period of highs and lows.
The grieving process is gradual, and it is normal that even years after the loss of a pet something may still trigger memories that bring back those feelings of sadness or anger.

Grief must be dealt with over time, but some ways of dealing with grief are better than others. Here are a few tips to help you onto the road to acceptance and resolution:

  • Don’t let anyone tell you you’re being silly or too sentimental – people who don’t understand the pet-owner bond probably won’t understand your pain. It’s OK to be angry, feel sad, to cry, to remember the good times, to laugh, and to accept the loss. when YOU are ready. What matters is how you feel, and remember, you’re not alone.
  • Get in touch with others who have lost pets – social media, pet loss support groups or hotlines, and your vet may also be able to suggest local support groups or other people, such a therapists or spiritual counsellors. There are also some good sources of information on pet loss on the internet.
  • Have a funeral or memorial service – this can help you to express your and say a proper ‘goodbye’, especially if this was possible before your pet passed away. It doesn’t matter what other people think about this, you need to do what’s right for you!
  • Remember your pet – some people find that performing a special activity, such as preparing a memorial or planting a flower helps. A memorial might be something you make yourself, like a photo in a special frame, an album or scrapbook, or maybe sharing your memories with friends and family on social media. Donating to an animal shelter or favourite charity in your pet’s name can also be a way of remembering your pet.
  • Stay strong – pet loss can be mentally and emotionally exhausting; look after yourself, try and maintain your usual routine, eat and sleep well and get some exercise. This is especially important if you have other pets; they can ‘feel’ the loss as well so ensuring their daily routines are the same will benefit you all.

There is no golden rule about when you should or shouldn’t get another pet. Some people feel that they are ready for a new pet very quickly, others do not want to consider getting another pet until years later, and some people won’t want to have another pet at all.
Every pet is different, so it isn’t possible to ‘replace’ a pet, but every pet offers a new chance of love and companionship.