Pets are a huge part of our lives, and losing a beloved pet can be a devastating experience. In fact, the loss of a pet can be just as painful as losing a close friend or family member for many pet owners.
Sadly, losing a pet can be made all the more difficult because of the way we deal with pet loss in our society. When a family member dies, friends and family gather around to support us, and employers allow us time off work to grieve.
But when a pet dies the story is often different. Those around us can find it difficult to understand our deep feelings of grief. And many people who have lost pets experience feelings of embarrassment and shame about the severity of their heartbreak.
Losing a pet is a sad fact of life for pet owners. But fortunately, there are ways to help cope with the loss. In this post we'll look at the grieving process and what you can do to help heal yourself when your pet passes away.
The Grieving Process
It's important to recognize that the grieving process cannot be hurried, and there is no "normal" period of time that it should take. While it's true that the most intense feelings of grief are likely to occur during the first few weeks or months after losing your pet, feelings of grief can be triggered by memories of your pet years later.
Grieving is unique to each individual, and it's beyond the scope of this post to explore all the different emotions that may arise during the grieving process. Instead, we'll take a look at a few of the most common feelings pet owners experience after losing a pet.
The loss of a pet can leave a huge void in our lives, and many pet owners experience a sense of aimlessness in their daily lives. Often, pets bring a sense of structure to the lives of their owners. But when a pet passes away, it can be difficult to adapt to the quietness in the house and the changes in daily routine.
Loss of Support and Comfort
Studies have shown that pets benefit our mental health in many ways. They help ease anxiety, reduce loneliness and depression, and provide a sense of companionship. When we lose a pet we also lose a source of comfort and support, and it can be challenging to adapt to life without it.
Loss of Identity and Social Interactions
Pets often provide us with social ties to our community, and dog owners in particular can feel a loss of identity when their pet passes away. Suddenly, they are no longer interacting with other dog owners during daily walks. This loss of social interaction can have a negative impact on overall wellbeing.
Dealing With Grief
Grieving is a natural response to losing a much-loved pet. As we mentioned earlier, it's important to take your time and avoid rushing the grieving process. In this final section of the post we'll make some suggestions for dealing with the pain in the healthiest way possible.
Allow Yourself to Experience Grief
Grieving your pet is both healthy and natural – don't allow anyone to tell you otherwise. Let yourself experience grief without feeling embarrassed or guilty. Whatever emotion you're feeling is just fine, and remember there's no set schedule for grieving.
Talk to Others About Your Loss
Talking to others about your loss can help you deal with the pain. It's a good idea to talk to people who've lost a pet in the past, as they will be better equipped to understand what you are going through.
If you don't have anyone to reach out to, consider calling the ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline at (877) GRIEF-10. There are also lots of pet loss communities and groups that can be found online and through social media.
Commemorate Your Pet’s Life
Commemorating your pet is a great way to celebrate their life and help deal with your loss. Some pet owners choose to plant a tree in honor of their pet. Others compile a photo album or commission a custom-made gravestone, pet portrait, or piece of jewelry to remember their pet by. Another fantastic way to commemorate your pet is by donating to an animal charity or shelter in their honor.
Losing a pet can unleash a torrent of emotions, and it's easy to feel burned out both mentally and physically. One of the best ways to help deal with your grief is by practicing self-care. This means taking care of the essentials that keep your mind and body healthy such as getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and spending quality time with family and friends.
Need more information about coping with the loss of a pet? Best Friends Animal Society have compiled an excellent list of resources designed to help you through difficult times.