Losing a pet can be tough. According to statistics more than one on three Americans have at least one pet in their household. For some people these animals aren’t just seen as pets, they’re regarded as one of the family and the bonds that can form are incredible. In one study 13 out of 16 people said if given the choice they would rather give their dog a rare lifesaving medicine by veterinary unit opposed to a non-family member.
Losing a pet can often be a very traumatic experience for the owner and they can become consumed with grief and bereavement. It’s not like when people we’re close to die. Most of the time when a pet gets ill, it’s the owner that has to decide if it’s the right time to say goodbye to their lovable friend. Sometimes pets run away or are stolen, in which case the owner can never get closure. Or other times they may have to be re-homed for financial or other personal reasons.
There aren’t really any formal processes to go through with the loss of a pet like there is with a human, and sometimes it can be hard to put into perspective. Also, not everyone understands what it feels like to lose a pet. And of course, the experience will be different for everyone. However, if you do find yourself grieving over the loss of a faithful pet, the following may help:
- Keep busy: Some people find that keeping focused on their daily tasks and routines can help ease the pain.
- Some animal shelters or ASPCA centers hold self-help group sessions in connection with pet bereavement. Most veterinary schools will know of telephone support lines too. There are also a great deal of resources that can be found online, including community forums, that enable people to receive the support they need at such a difficult time.
- Identify any triggers for your grieving and think of ways you can learn to cope with these. Triggers may include things like seeing certain pet food or sitting in a particular area you used to spend time with your pet in.
- Recognize the depth of your loss. Everyone is different and will deal with grief differently. What might take one person a few days to recover from, might take another person a whole year. The point is you can’t rush these things, so just give yourself all the time and space that you need to grieve. Group or individual therapy sessions can help in the meantime.
- Try to find a meaningful way to grieve. Some ideas include creating a journal or memory book, or building a memorial, or donating some funds to an animal welfare program or cause.