The grief of losing a pet is something only a pet owner can truly understand. Animal companions share so much of our life, even if they don’t talk. Losing a pet can be unexpected or it could come in the form of terminal illness. It might happen with death or divorce. Regardless of the way in which you lose your pet, the loss is devastating. Only time heals the pain of loss, but there are some things you can do to help the grief process.
Grieve. Grieving a pet is natural. The important thing is to not hold it in. It is acceptable to take a day or two off of work to help yourself greive. Though four-legged, this is a death of a family member that you are dealing with.
Memorialize. Life is short, and some things are worth making some extra time for. Give your pet some extra devotion in it’s last weeks if you have that option. Once your pet has passed away, memorialize the pet. This will help all family members to feel like the pet remains part of the family – especially children. You can write about what you love and miss about your pet, make a scrapbook, create Christmas tree ornaments or other memorials of your pet. Many families decide to cremate the ashes of their pet and keep the ashes in the home. This is up to you.
Give yourself time. When faced with the loss of a furry companion, we not only miss the love and affection of our beloved friend, we also miss the comfort that only a pet can provide. This makes many rush right out and try to heal their wounds (or their child’s wounds) with a new pet. It’s best to give yourself some space; allow yourself and your family to grieve the loss and avoid attempting to replace the pet. This new pet might become a scapegoat for the emotions of grief. Experts recommend a 3-6 month minimum time for new pets, depending on how well you’ve navigated the grief cycle.
Remember that the loss of your pet can happen suddenly. The most important advice is to make the most of each day with your pet, with lots of playing, petting, and getting cozy. As tiring as your pet’s constant need for attention may seem now, you may find yourself missing it one day.