Dealing with Loss
Losing a pet is one of the most difficult times in a pet parent’s life. So difficult, in fact, that many people say they will never get another pet, ever. Over time, though, most people rethink this statement and decide once again to open their heart and home to four-legged love. We once had a client tell us “the pain now is worth the happiness then”.
There are many ways to process the loss of a pet – it is a matter of finding the ways that work best for you.
Dealing with loss often begins while the pet is still with us. Anticipatory grief can be very difficult to deal with and can go on for years. It can start with a diagnosis such as cancer, or may simply creep up as the pet ages. For pets who require a lot of intensive care at the end of their life, their loss can present other challenges. When a person’s life revolves around the care of their pet, it can be incredibly difficult to no longer have those responsibilities. People often continue to wake up in the middle of the night to let their geriatric dog out, or miss the frequent rotation of medications. There can be feelings of relief, and also feelings of guilt.
During this time, self-care is extremely important. Grief takes both an emotional and physical toll on the body – lack of sleep, changes in appetite, withdrawal from friends and family, guilt, anger and relief are only a small number of the possible challenges. We’ve met countless people who have told us the loss of their pet has been more devastating than the loss of a beloved family member. It can take months or even years for the grief to ease to a tolerable state. The most important thing is to be understanding, gentle and compassionate with yourself. And also remember that any decision you made at any given time, was made based on the information you had, and made because of the love you held for your pet.
Stay open to emotional support. This support can take many forms – friends and family, support groups, pet-loss hotlines and online resources. It is also important to recognize when it might be a good idea to seek further help in the form of a grief/pet loss counselor. There is no timeline for grief – your grief is your own. Some people are very outspoken about their experience with grief, while others are very private about it. If one of your friends or loved ones is experiencing grief from pet loss, let them know you will do what you can to support them.
Memorializing your pet may help you on your journey to healing. There are many ways to do this — for example, glass art, jewelry, scrapbooking, journaling and photography. Some families have commemorated their pet by with anonline photo book (e.g. through Shutterfly). Another beautiful option is to write a story in memory of your pet and post it to social media or send to us for our memorial blog — it would be our honour to post it for you. You may also wish to make a donation to an animal rescue group, or volunteer your time with one of those organizations..
While there are many ways to help process the grief that comes with the loss of a beloved pet, oftentimes the most valuable tool is time. As time goes on, the tears are more frequently replaced by smiles.
“Grief never ends… But it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor lack of faith… It is the price of love”. – author unknown