Saying Goodbye: Coping with Pet Loss
When we sign up to become pet parents, we know that one day we’ll face the inevitable. As much as we wish that our dogs and cats could live as long as we do, their time on earth is limited. But boy, do our furry friends ever have an impact on our lives!
That’s why losing a beloved pet is such a painful process. It’s OK to take time to grieve and mourn the very real loss you face when a pet dies. Our team at Androscoggin Animal Hospital has walked this path many times, and we’d like to share tips for coping with pet loss.
Pet Loss and Grief: 3 Strategies for Pet Loss Healing
1. Lean Into the Grief
When your pet passes away, you lose a being that you were bonded with. Your relationship with your pet undergoes a massive change. You go from feeding and walking your dog every day to honoring and remembering him for the rest of your life.
The grief is normal. It’s real. It’s valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and if they do, excuse yourself from their presence for now. Surround yourself with people who understand the deep grief that comes with losing a cherished pet and stick with those people.
Take a few days off work if you can, especially right after your pet passes away. Call in sick if you need to. Your body may be in shock, and you may need time to let your new reality sink in.
Do what feels right to you. Maybe that means looking through photos of you and your pet in happier times. Or it might look like journaling about your loss. Perhaps it means curling up on your dog or kitty’s bed, listening to songs that make you sad, and letting yourself cry.
2. Honor Your Pet’s Memory
Pushing away thoughts of your pet may momentarily ease your pain, but it’s important to honor the relationship you shared.
People around the world carry out rituals and memorial services following the death of loved ones for a reason. They help us process our grief, make sure our loved ones aren’t forgotten, and bring us closer to healing.
Hold a memorial service for your dog or cat. Plant a tree in their honor. Put together a special scrapbook of your pet’s life with you. Turn your dog’s tags into a necklace to wear around your neck. Donate to your local animal shelter in your cat’s name.
These are just a few ideas for honoring your pet’s memory. As with any aspect of the grieving process, it’s important to do what feels right for you.
3. Join a Support Group
If you’re really struggling with the loss of your pet or simply need people to talk to, consider joining a support group. Our team at Androscoggin Animal Hospital can help you connect with a local or virtual pet loss support group.
It’s important to remember that pet loss can be traumatic. If you are experiencing nightmares or intrusive thoughts or are finding it difficult to cope, reach out to a trusted counselor. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) offers free pet loss support online.
Knowing when to seek support for pet loss can help you manage your grief and work toward healing. And our caring veterinary team is always here when you need us.