Nobel prize-winning author Anatole France once said, "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." It's a sentiment many pet owners would endorse. But if you've experienced the joy that comes with having a pet, sadly there also may come a time when you have to face the heartbreak of losing that beloved friend. Death is an inevitable part of life for all creatures, including pets, though knowing this fact doesn't make it any easier. However, there are some things you can do when your pet dies to honor his memory and make the days that follow a little easier to bear. Read on to learn some tips for dealing with the loss.
5: Acknowledge the Loss
For some people, pet loss can be just as painful as losing a family member. If this applies to your situation, you might find yourself overwhelmed by intense feelings, including pain and devastation. Not only is it completely normal to feel this way, but it also can be incredibly important to give yourself permission to do so. You may encounter many people -- from close friends to total strangers -- who have a hard time understanding the significance of your loss, but don't let that cause you to suppress or downplay your feelings, as this will only delay your grieving and healing process in the long run.
Common Stages of Grief
Your emotions may seem like a roller coaster after the loss of a pet. Here are some things you might experience:
- Denial: Since pets are so closely integrated with their owners' lives, including habits and schedules, imagining these routines without them can be difficult to accept, though this tends to be a temporary state of mind.
- Anger: This might be directed as another person, such as a vet, or at something less concrete, such as the illness or injury that ultimately resulted in your pet's death.
- Guilt: This often plays a significant role in situations where someone has been faced with having to euthanize a pet, even if it's often the only and most humane choice.
- Depression: The impact of loss can decrease motivation and create a sense of hopelessness.
4: Choosing a Final Resting Place
Selecting how, where and even whether you want to put your pet's remains to rest is an extremely personal decision. The best choice is the one that makes you most comfortable and brings you a sense of peace. If you have a backyard area, you might consider an actual burial under a favorite tree or dedicate a space for this purpose in your garden that you can later plant flowers over. Some pet owners opt for cremation. If you choose that option and decide to keep the ashes, there are several companies that sell urns specifically designed for pets and even cremation jewelry that's made especially for this purpose.
3: Talk It Out
Openly discussing your loss can be an important step in the healing process. While one of the first places to turn for support may be your own family and friends, it also might be comforting to connect with other pet owners who have gone or are going through the same experience you are. Organizations like the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB.org) and the Delta Society (DeltaSociety.org) offer support group directories online. If, however, you prefer a more private environment, there is also the option for individual therapy sessions, which often are offered through local animal hospitals. There are also many online discussion forums dedicated to the topic of pet loss, which can provide an alternative way to connect.
What to Do When Someone Loses a Pet:
It's often hard to find the right things to do or say when a loved one is grieving. Here are some ideas:
- Offer your condolences.
- Send a sympathy card or flowers.
- Make a donation in the pet's name to an animal organization.
- Ask what else you can do to help.
2: Honor and Remember
Preparing a tribute in honor of your pet can be a cathartic step toward finding comfort, and the options for doing this really are endless. It could be as simple as framing a photo of your pet to keep in your home or something more elaborate such as putting together a scrapbook with stories, important dates and other mementos like training certificates. You could also create a shadowbox showcasing some of your pet's personal items, such as a collar, tag or favorite toy. There are also many artists who specialize in pet paintings and drawings, which often can be done just from a photo. Another option is to write about your pet, whether it's just for your eyes only, or something you want to share more publicly on a forum like a blog or by submitting something to an animal-focused magazine.
1: Heal the Wounds
While figuring out how to move on and enjoy life again might seem impossible while you're grieving, one way to do so is by focusing the grief in a positive way that might help out another animal in need. For example, you might consider donating your pet's toys and supplies to an animal rescue organization. If that proves to be too difficult, you could simply make a monetary donation in the pet's name. If you find yourself with more time on your hands in light of the loss, volunteering with these types of organizations can also be uplifting, rewarding and healing. On the question of whether you should get another pet, the answer will differ for each person who considers it. Opening your heart and home to another pet can be a great way to honor your pet that has passed, but only if and when you decide this option feels right for you.
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