Coping with Pet Loss02/01/2022
It is becoming more widely accepted that pet loss can create the same bereavement emotions, with the same process of coping and healing that we go through as that of when a human dies.
Laying beside to me is my dog. My best friend and confidant. She is around 10 now, we rescued her soon after my Dad died. At the time she had an approximate age of 12 months..
Through the years she has been my constant, my comfort, my friend and companion.. This morning she listened as I explained about ‘lockdowns’ and we have to stay home to keep safe. As she looked at me with ears pricked forward, looking into my eyes, I knew she understood.
In the past 6 months the signs of her aging have started to become clear. The slower pace that she walks, the plodding of paws if we go too far. The greying of hair around her face and the sleeping, much more sleeping.
We know we are living on borrowed time and that when the inevitable day arrives, the grief will hit me like a steam roller..
I will feel all of the emotions that one does with grief, whether it be a family member, friend, pet or end of a relationship. The anger, the uncertainty of if I did all that I could, the tears, the heartache, the loss.. These pains and feelings will be real and raw.
If this is you
For those experiencing this or if you know someone who is and are trying to give support, you may find the following helpful.
Of course people can be heartless or perhaps just don’t understand. They may say ‘it’s just a dog’. Only said by those who have never loved or cared for a pet or felt that real connection.
Any animal that has been loved by a human can leave an emptiness when they die.
Grief of a pet can be a lonely experience as not everyone will understand the pain that you feel.
Coping with pet loss is real.
The loss of a pet can affect physical as well as mental health. You may find that you have problems eating or sleeping, or find it hard to carry out everyday tasks. If your pet was a work colleague, service animal or home support, it may be that you lose your independence, your protection, your guide and emotional support.
Maybe there will be regret, as to having the pet in the first instance. For any caring pet owner there will be heartache and a sense of loss.
Decisions can be hard. To know how and when to make the decision to euthanize a pet can also be traumatic. Is it the right time, am I doing the right thing? Is the vet right? Will I be judged? Is my pet in pain? Will it hurt? How will I cope? Where can it be done? Can I trust the professionals?
This can go on for some time if a pet is poorly but managing. How can we answer these questions? We can’t, not all of them, not really. There is no black and white, no rule book. Sometimes, tough decisions have to be made. We can beat ourselves up for many years after. All we can do is what feels right after listening to advice and assessing the individual situation at the time.
From the loss of a pet it is possible that the owner will feel that life is no longer worth living. They may find they no longer have a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to go out of the house. They may become lonely and depressed, with suggestions of a replacement causing anger and resentment.
The death could be a sudden shock, an unknown cause, a fatal accident or a dreaded decision to ‘do what’s right’. Feelings of regret, disbelief entwined with the question why?
It may be that there is another pet at home who is also mourning the loss, and has a change of behaviour. There could be a child who needs to have the death explained in a way not to ignite fear.
In this time it is important to work though the grieving process. Emotions may not come in any particular order but the possibility of feeling denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are all very real and perfectly normal. People are different to one another and therefore handle things differently.
We can choose to have our pet cremated and the ashes returned to us, or we can have our pet buried. You may want to hold a funeral or memorial for them possibly burying or scattering their ashes, favourite toy or collar. Again this is all perfectly normal and can help with the grieving process.
Some people may decide to isolate themselves away for a way to deal with their emotions alone. As long as this person knows that you are there for them when they are ready then you are helping them.
As time passes you may feel that you would like to celebrate your pets life and wish to celebrate the happy times that you shared. Mementos can be kept to help remember the happy times.
There are people and places available who offer help and support, you are not alone.
Creating a memory box for a pet can be a positive step in the healing process.
I wrote this article at the start of the global pandemic. Our old girl is still hanging on in there and remains here with us, but the occasional stumble appears to happen more frequently.
It feels at times as though we are living on borrowed time, but I am grateful that she is still enjoying a cuddle and a stroll around the park. My son and I will definitely create a memory box to hold her collar, lead and a few other items that will hep keep her memory alive.
Much love to all x
There are many charitable organisations that can help, but please contact your GP if you feel you cannot cope.
If you would like to create your own memory box for your pet, supplies can be found here;
I am not a professional in any manner, but have my own experiences & knowledge, just wishing to help others.