The connections we tend to make with our pets are deep and lasting. When these devoted family members pass away, the grieving process can be intense and lasting. Yet, many pet owners choose to suffer in silence and are hesitant about openly discussing the pain they are feeling.
Moira Anderson Allen, the author of Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, cautions against bottling up our emotions. “The most important step you can take is, to be honest about your feelings. Don’t deny your pain or your feelings of anger and guilt. Only by examining and coming to terms with your feelings can you begin to work through them,” she advises.
When it comes to losing a pet, no one’s journey of grief will take a prescribed pattern; everyone grieves differently. But according to mental health experts, by physically showing your grief, you actively mourn the death of your beloved pet. This active mourning will move you on a journey toward reconciling with the loss of your pet.
If you’re looking for other strategies on how to deal with the loss of a pet, here are a few suggestions on coping.
Do you lack support from your circle of folks?
Your grief is valid! It takes time to mourn and to work through what has taken place. You might not receive the compassion you seek from others within your circle. It might be a good idea to connect with those who understand pet loss so that you do not feel isolated in your grief. The Rainbows Bridge (www.rainbowbridge.com) is a wonderful free resource and online community for those grieving the loss of a furry family member.
Let it out through expression!
Allow yourself to feel sad, depressed, or angry about the passing of your pet. Express your emotions through writing, drawing, poetry, painting, song, do what you feel will bring you a sense of peace. Give yourself the support you need to get through the hurt.
Don’t bury the memories.
Keep the memories of your pet alive by celebrating their life in unique ways:
If your pet was cremated, you could place some of their ashes into a pillow that you can hug.
Have an image of their nose or paw printed onto a dainty necklace or bracelet. HopeofMyHeart.com laser prints necklaces with your dog’s paws on them. If you don’t have your dog’s paw print to send, the designers can use a photograph to create something equally special.
Handmade memory quilts are a wonderfully personal way to remember your pet using a collection of your favorite images.
Plant a tree or flower in your garden to signify your pet’s life.
Create a memory box that contains photographs, dog toys, blankets, and other keepsake items to place into a box that you can pull out and revisit time and time again.
Put together a photo album of the good times.
Organize a celebration of life gathering.
A celebration of life gathering for your pet is a healing way to say goodbye. It can help you gain closure after the loss of a pet and gives you the opportunity to talk about what your pet meant to you. Share stories of your pet, comfort family that also cared about your pet, and take time to acknowledge how loved your pet was by the people in their life. Do not invite those people who think it’s inappropriate to hold a memorial for a pet. Instead, do what feels right for you.
Should you replace your beloved pet with another?
Finish your grieving process first! You can’t simply replace a pet who has passed away. You have to gear yourself up for a new personality. “People need time to miss their pets and to think about them,” says Veterinarian Sheri Morris, DABVP, of Willamette Valley Animal Hospital in Keizer, Oregon. When you find yourself really missing a companion or a wagging tail to greet you when you arrive home, you’ll know it’s time.
Seek professional help.
If your grief is persistent, overwhelming, and interferes with your ability to function, your doctor or a mental health professional can evaluate you for depression.