One day, you wake up, and your parents have a surprise for you. It’s a new pet! You hug and promise, “I’ll never let you go!”
Most of us get pets at a young age, and we find ourselves growing together. We also get them when we are struggling with ourselves. They become not “just a cat or a dog” or “just an animal” but rather a beloved family member.
Then when the time comes, you realize you have to let them go. The promise can’t be kept forever. It makes the loss of a pet even more difficult.
Dealing with the Loss of a Beloved Pet: Why is Losing a Pet so Hard?
Pets bring comfort and provide you with unconditional love. Over the years, you share an intense bond with them, making them your companion and a significant part of your lives. They have many unique ways to show that they love you. For example, a cat sometimes brings a “gift” for their human; a dog gets a stick that seems special to them, a bird climbs up your shoulders and rests, etc.,
We all respond to pain differently because of different characteristics, circumstances, and even closeness. The pain of losing your lovely pets becomes overwhelming, and you feel distressed. But it still hurts so much when we have lost our best friend.
According to Dr. Sullivan, a clinical health psychologist, losing the unconditional love of a pet is reasonably distressing. She also says that humans feel this pain because this type of bond is something you don’t get everywhere. You feel the need to be loved and know someone views you especially, and when you lose that someone, you feel broken inside. It becomes challenging for you to live without a special bond then.
Pet: A Member of the Family?
As you start taking care of your pets and spending more and more time with them, you feel a special connection. The relationship with them has become more important in your life. There are so many reasons for that.
- They put forward their most loveable side
- They offer emotional support
- They stay loyal and stick by your side
- They present you with unconditional love
They do all of these without wanting anything in return or maybe just a few cuddles and hugs and kisses. Do these things seem familiar to you? Well, that’s how a family behaves often.
Your pets behave the same way, so why should they be considered less than a family member!
Grieving the Loss of a Pet: The Process
Losing a pet suddenly is even harder when you have a close-knit relationship. The grief you feel may become overwhelming. But you have to understand grief is part of the healing process. Grief is not the same for every person. Everyone deals with and goes through the process differently. It can last for days, and others, for many years.
The grief process, which occurs right after your pet dies, often starts with denial and many praying to a higher power. Then comes the anger against this harsh reality, followed by the pet loss guilt. You will feel like you have done something wrong to deserve this, or maybe they have passed due to you not taking care of them enough. We want to tell you that you shouldn’t feel guilty; you are not at fault. After this comes the mourning and, lastly, acceptance. Acceptance lets you move to the healing process.
Another grief process you may experience will happen periodically, like the seasons. Over time, you might grieve in a series of highs and lows. The highs can be quick, like when you see, hear or experience something familiar and it could spark a memory of the moment of your loss. The lows can be longer and harder to overcome initially, but eventually, they will become shorter and less intense.
But you must remember:
- You can’t force the grieving process. It will eventually happen.
- Feeling sad, depressed, or lonely is normal.
- To acknowledge the pain that you are feeling.
How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet
Losing a pet is a highly delicate and painful situation, and many people don’t understand that. To many people, they may be “animals,” but they are family for a lot of us. So, you need to be more forgiving and kind to yourself.
Here are some suggestions that you can follow:
- Acknowledge your grief. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise! Don’t feel embarrassed or disheartened; your sorrow is your own. You are allowed to express it and cope with it however you like.
- Take help from others who went through something familiar. They can help you ease your pain. You will always feel better when you talk to someone who has lost a pet of their own.
- Maintain the routine of your other pets if you have any. We know it’s hard to live everyday life, but you have to maintain your other pets so that they don’t get sick. You can increase their exercise and playtime, also uplifting your mood.
- Have a small funeral if you want. It will allow you and your family to grieve and express how they feel. Do not pay heed to other people.
- Give your family and children time. Not everyone is ready to move on quickly. They move forward at their own pace, so you should give them all the time they need.
- Seek help from a therapist. If you are still having trouble and going through depression, we suggest you contact a professional. Therapists will listen to you and help you feel better.
These suggestions may not remove your grief at once but will surely help you cope with the loss of a pet.
Moving Forward from the Loss
Moving forward after losing a pet, even after many years, is quite tricky. So, we want to help you. It might be challenging, but it will ease your heart.
You may want to go through these suggestions to know how to get over the loss of a pet:
- Fostering pets can help you heal. Pets have this therapeutic aura, and it might help you. Not only will you be giving them a good life but slowly stepping into good mental health yourself.
- Self-care is the best care! You have to focus on your health. Try doing things that will help you de-stress, like yoga, reading a book, taking long walks, and having a relaxing bath. You can try out new hobbies that you have been holding off on.
- Join a support group. If you search the internet, you will find many support groups in your area. They will help you move forward, and you will be happier.
- You can start writing journals. It will help you express your feelings in your writings.
If you feel like mourning sometimes, go ahead. It’s ok if you do so! It may be hard at first, but trying these few steps will guide you to a better and healthier life.
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How to Comfort Someone Who had Recently Lost a Pet
You visit your friend and find out that they have lost their pet recently and are grieving. You walk up to your friend, and they hug you and say, “My dog died, and I can’t get over it.”
Now, you have no idea how to handle the situation. You have no pets, and you don’t understand how you can comfort your friend.
Seeing someone else grieving over their pets can be confusing, but you must understand that their pets meant a lot to them. It is the first step – to realize the loss of another. We are here to help you if you ever find yourself in this situation.
Go through these 9 ways to comfort someone who has lost a pet:
- Listen to what they have to say. Let them talk to you about their experience. If you had a similar loss experience, avoid sharing it at that moment.
- Show them affection with a gentle touch. You can hug them, hold their hands or even give them a shoulder to cry on.
- Send them flowers and let them know you are there. Say, “I am here for you.” ask, “How are you doing?”.
- Use their pet’s name even after the death. It shows that you care and are not there to judge.
- Remind them that they loved their pet and gave them extraordinary lives.
- If they are not mentally stable, refer them to mental health professionals and provide them with a list of pet loss support groups.
- Give them time to mourn the loss. Avoid saying anything that will hurt their feelings.
- Take them on long drives or walks. It will help them cope with the grief and feel better.
- If it’s a child and you don’t know what to give a child who lost a pet, talk to them. Moreover, you can provide them with a toy that looks like their pet. It will surely cheer them up.
Just be there for the person. That is the most important thing you can do even if you don’t understand the whole situation.
We wish you and your loved pets a great day! You are already one step ahead if you are reading this to look for ways to help someone who lost a pet. Please go through our website to learn more ways to help yourself and others.
I am Dana McQueen, a Veterinary Doctor who studied Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. For years, I have got common questions from friends and family about their pets. So, I decided to open up this website and answer all those frequently asked questions. Alongside, here I share my expert knowledge about pet care, pet health and the animal environment.