Pet loss is often one of the most difficult experiences people deal with.
It often takes people by surprise just how difficult it can be to “bounce back” after a pet’s death, or how hard the loss hits them in their day to day life.
Whether it is a childhood dog who has been there for you through all the awkward years, the cat you rescued from the animal shelter, or the first pet you and your spouse bought together, pets often play a vital role in your life. They are always excited to see you, provide almost constant companionship, and allow you to take care of another living being. Pets unconditionally love, and can be a huge comfort when feeling alone or sad.
There is no right way to grieve and mourn, but there are some things you can do to take care of yourself as you adjust to your pet no longer being part of your day to day life.
- Take some time out from your routine. If you need to take some vacation time or cancel plans with friends, do so. Don’t feel like you have to be completely normal in the days or even weeks following your loss. Give yourself room to feel sad, to cry, and to miss your pet. Some people find it helpful to have a memorial or bury their pet in a special place. You can also put pictures around your home of things you used to do with your pet as special reminders of what you loved.
- Talk about your favorite memories with people who understand. Sharing stories and hearing others talk about your pet can help you focus on the great things about their personality and the things you loved about them instead of just the sad memories of losing them. Not everyone will understand what you are feeling, even if they are good people who love you. Lean on the friends and family who are supportive, find a support group in your area, or find a qualified grief counselor.
- Ignore the pressure to “move on” quickly, and move at your own pace. Recognize that grief is a very personal process, and you may have feelings of loss, guilt, or sadness that last beyond what you were expecting. If you feel ready to find another pet, do so, but if you are hesitant about it, just give yourself time.
Losing a pet is often like losing a member of your family, but we often don’t give ourselves the space to mourn it as such. Do your hurting heart a favor and give yourself permission to grieve in your own way.
Molly Halbrooks, LAMFT