Following the loss of a pet, sorrow and grief are normal and natural responses. It’s important to realize the process of healing is ongoing and takes each individual a different amount of time. Here are some ideas that may help you along the way.
- Try not to allow others to dictate how you’re supposed to feel, and try not to tell yourself how you should be feeling either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Feel what you feel without judgment or embarrassment. Your emotions will be constantly changing and some days will be better than others. It’s important to let yourself be joyful without feeling guilt on those good days as well.
- Reach out to others who have lost pets too. Chances are that you know others who have gone through a similar experience with the loss of a pet. If you don’t feel able to reach out to your friends and family, check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups in your area and on the internet.
- Rituals and ceremonies can help healing. Often, a burial, ceremony or a funeral can help you honor your pet’s life as well as the unconditional love you shared with one another. It might offer the opportunity to gain closure and express how you are feeling while receiving the much-needed support of those around you.
- Construct a legacy of your pet’s life and the time you shared together. Sometimes creating a memorial for your deceased pet can help you with their loss. Compiling a physical scrapbook or online scrapbook is often a creative way to begin the healing process. Planting a garden or a tree in your pet’s memory to have a place to honor is also a good idea. If you would like to make a donation in your pet’s honor to help other animals in need, we welcome you to make a gift to SPCA International.
- Share your story. One of the best ways of dealing with the pain of loss and grief is to write about it and/or to share your thoughts with others. The process of recounting the experiences in a creative story telling fashion can offer an opportunity to work through the grief. Writing is something anyone can aspire to do; formulating one’s thoughts and feelings on paper is therapeutic. Another creative option is to use a self-assisted website that can help you build a photo storybook about your pet. For more information follow the following links: www.lulu.com, www.mixbook.com, www.petloss.com/writing.html.
- Be good to yourself. The stress of losing a pet can be quite taxing on both your physical and emotional well being. As much as you possibly can, try to eat healthfully, get plenty of rest even if you are having difficulty sleeping. Take time out of your day to focus specifically on you. Exercising regularly will release endorphins to help with your mood.
- If you have other pets, please try your best to continue with their routine. Most companion animals are social creatures and can also experience loss in different ways when a pet dies; for example, their appetite can decrease or stop completely. Additionally, because we know that bonds are so strong, your surviving pet may feel your sadness causing further distress. Please keep in mind that pets are sensitive to human emotion and try to maintain a mood as neutral as possible when in their presence and focus on keeping their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, this will elevate your outlook as well.
- Talk to your veterinarian. Even after you have had to say goodbye to your pet, you may gain more closure by speaking to your veterinarian or/and supporting staff, if you have unanswered questions or feelings of guilt if the death was untimely or you had to make the decision to euthanize.
- Consider volunteering at your local animal shelter. If you do not feel ready to save a new life, sometimes the act of helping and caring for a homeless and needy animal can help you with your grief. If you’re not ready to be around other animals just yet, you could consider volunteering from a distance in the form of fundraising and awareness. For more information, visit Become a Fundraiser.