Dealing With the Loss of Your Pet
The bond that we form with our pets can be deep and fulfilling, and the loss of a pet is similar to the loss of a family member or friend. This bond is what makes our relationships with our pets so rich and rewarding, but also what makes the loss so complicated and troubling. The grief may come in waves. It may be triggered or enhanced by sound, smell or sight that sparks your memory and can be overwhelming at times.
It is normal to feel sorrow and to grieve after your pet dies or is lost. The amount of time a person grieves for the loss varies based on the individual and the relationship they shared with their pet. Grief is a unique and private response but there are certain stages of grief that most people experience. It is important to remember that not everyone will experience all of the stages and those that do experience the stages of grief may do so in a different order than others. The stages of grief include denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance, and resolution.
Denial is an unwillingness to accept the fact that death is unavoidable or that your pet has died. Denial may commence when your pet is initially diagnosed with a life-threatening ailment or a terminal illness. In many cases, the more sudden the death, the more challenging the loss is to accept and the stronger the denial.
In many cases, anger and guilt follow denial. You may become angry at the people you normally love and respect, including your family, friends or your veterinarian. When coping with death, many people will say things that they don't really mean. These comments can often cause unintended hardship to the other people we care for. Guilt can be internalized or you may find yourself blaming others for not identifying the illness sooner, for allowing you to choose humane euthanasition, for not doing something sooner or for not being able to afford the treatments to save your pet.
Another common stage in the grieving process is depression. When facing the loss of a pet, tears may flow and you may feel drained of all energy. Routine tasks can seem challenging and you may feel isolated and alone. Many pet-owners experiencing depression avoid the company of friends and family. Some find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, especially if their morning rituals involved caring for their pet's needs. Some owners wonder if they can go on without their pet. Do not feel silly or weak for seeking professional assistance when dealing with the loss of a loved one. This is a common part of the grieving process.
Eventually, the grieving will come to terms with their feelings and begin to accept their pet's death. Resolution often occurs when you can remember your pet and the time you shared with them without feeling the tremendous pain and hardship you previously endured. Acceptance and resolution are normal steps in the grieving process and do not mean that you no longer feel a sense of loss. Acceptance and resolution just mean that you have come to terms with the fact that your pet has passed on. Even after you have experienced acceptance and resolution, you may still experience anger, denial, guilt and depression. If you experience these feelings, they will most likely be less intense. Over time, you may find your pain and suffering being replaced with fond memories of your pet.
Although many of us will experience the stages of grief, the process is still a very unique and personal one. Some take longer to come to terms with the loss. If you understand that these reactions are normal, you will be better equipped to cope with your feelings and to help others face theirs. Sorrow and grief are normal and natural responses to the loss of a pet. Just as everyone grieves differently, people may choose to honor their pet in a variety of ways. One person may prefer to bury their pet, while others may ask for the remains to be cremated. Some owners may have a memorial service or funeral for their pet while another prefer a more private remembrance.
Whatever option you choose to honor your pet and the bond you shared is as personal as your grieving process.
Give yourself time to grieve, take steps to heal, and be thankful that your life was better because it was shared with your beloved pet.