Compassion in Your Time of Mourning
Given the intense bond most of us share with our animals, it’s natural to feel devastated by feelings of grief and sadness when a pet dies. While some people may not understand the depth of feeling you had for your pet, you should never feel guilty or ashamed about grieving for an animal friend.
Instead, use these healthy ways to cope with the loss, comfort yourself and others, and begin the process of healing. For pet parents, a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” Pets are beloved members of the family, when one dies you feel a significant, even traumatic, loss.
Everyone Grieves Differently
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. Some people find grief comes in stages. They may experience different feelings such as:
Others find that grief is more cyclical, coming in waves, or a series of highs and lows. The lows are likely to be deeper and longer at the beginning and then gradually become shorter and less intense as time goes by.
Things to Remember
- The grieving process happens only gradually. It can’t be forced or hurried, and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.
- Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction. Exhibiting these feelings doesn’t mean you are weak, so you shouldn’t feel ashamed.
- Trying to ignore your pain only makes it worse. For real healing, it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.
Tips for Healing the Pain of Pet Loss
Sorrow and grief are normal and natural responses to death. Like grief for humans, grief for animal companions can only be dealt with over time, but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain.
- Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment.
- Reach out to others who have lost pets. Check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups.
- Rituals can help healing. A funeral can help you and your family members openly express your feelings.
- Create a legacy. Preparing a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, or compiling a scrapbook will create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion.
- Look after yourself. The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood.
- If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintain their daily routines.