It is normal for pet owners to forget that their companions won’t be able to live as long as we do, and when the time comes, and they pass away, you become overwhelmed with an unexpectedly deep sense of loss.
But most people who lose their pets are often ashamed of the profound sadness they feel. Many even hide their grief because they believe it is improper to mourn an animal. The truth is that we form great bonds with our pets, whether it’s a dog, cat, rabbit, etc., and their loss is devastating for a good reason.
Here’s everything you should know about mourning a dead pet.
Why do you feel sad when your beloved pet dies?
A pet is a buddy who will always be there to lend a sympathetic ear, share in happy occasions, or just offer a comfortable company. We all adore our pets because they improve our lives and sometimes even change our viewpoints. According to studies, people who own pets are less likely to experience emotional illnesses like depression, anxiety, and insomnia, among other problems.
This is because animals offer us a trustworthy source of affection and solace that is challenging, if not impossible, to find in other members of our own species. This highlights the profound impact pet owners can have and a few of the reasons people grieve their loss so keenly.
The grief process following a pet loss
Grief is a very personal feeling. Some people discover that grieving after losing a pet happens in stages, during which they go through various emotions like denial, rage, guilt, melancholy, and finally, acceptance and resolution.
Others find their grieving more cyclical, arriving in waves or a succession of highs and lows. The lows are likely to start out longer and deeper before progressively becoming shorter and less intense. Still, even years after a loss, a particular anniversary, a sound, or sight can bring back painful memories.
There is no “normal” grieving timeline, and it cannot be rushed or coerced. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. Others’ grief processes take years to complete. Whatever your level of pain, it’s crucial to be kind to yourself and let things take their course.
Trying to suppress or ignore your suffering will only worsen it long-term. If you want to experience true healing, face your sadness and take steps to actively deal with it. You’ll probably recover faster if you express your grief rather than holding it in or “bottling it up.” Also, consider writing down your emotions and discussing them with people who understand your loss.
How to Deal with Pet Loss
Just like grieving for a loved one, dealing with the loss of a pet requires time. Here are some things to remember:
1. Recognize the validity of your grief
The silence caused by their absence can be unbearable when your pet is gone. It becomes the “presence of the absence’s” reality. Simply being aware of this harsh reality will help you prepare for the wave of feelings.
The relationship you shared with your pet was a special and singular bond that some people might find challenging to comprehend. Well-intentioned friends and family members may tell you that you shouldn’t mourn for your pet or shouldn’t be grieving as much because “it’s just a cat” or “just a dog.” Your sadness is normal, and you should grieve the special friendship you had with your special friend.
2. Know that each person’s experience of grief is unique.
Experts often use the Kübler-Ross model to explain grief. It defines five distinct phases you go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Even yet, the path you go through these stages may vary daily. There is no consistent manner to handle grief, rage, denial, bargaining, or any of those phases.
Every person goes through these stages at their own particular pace and in their own style, and they are free to switch between them.
3. Take care of any guilty feelings
While many people anticipate their pet passing away peacefully while dozing off, that may not always be the case. You might have to consider the idea of euthanasia as a pet owner.
Many pet owners suffer guilt over making that decision for their cherished animal companion.
However, instead of viewing it as terminating your pet’s life, see it as a privilege and a blessing to spare them from the painful and distressing latter stages of the dying process.
4. Consider holding a ceremony
Most people find great solace in getting together with friends and family to memorialize their beloved pet, whether through a ceremony before, during, or after the pet’s demise.
Holding a ceremony allows you to commemorate the life of your pet and say your final goodbyes. The rituals can be extremely painful but also highly therapeutic.
5. Give yourself space to mourn.
It’s possible that your pet was a long-time member of your family, so you may need some time to mourn. Embrace it. Nobody can tell you when it’s time to go on or get over it.
Grieving has no prescribed timeline. Your sorrow might hit you in waves. Even while you might start to feel better, the grief might come back at some point, for instance, by hearing of someone else losing a pet, a name, or a particular day, such as your pet’s birthday.
6. Don’t blame yourself.
Do you feel bad that your pet passed away? Although they like their animal companions and would do everything for them, “almost all pet owners feel guilty – no matter what the reason for death.
This results from individuals feeling responsible for their pets and taking responsibility for their deaths. However, it’s essential to come to terms with the fact that there was nothing else you could have done to keep them alive.
7. Get help
Who do you turn to for consolation when you’re hurting? Probably your first pick would be your closest family members and best friends. But don’t be shocked if they tell you, “It was just a pet,” or “you can always get another one.”
Most people don’t understand your connection with your pet, even though they don’t mean to be careless. You may anticipate compassion and empathy if you lose a human family member, but people generally show less empathy and become angry or contemptuous when a pet is lost.
However, your grief may be more difficult if you don’t have someone to lean on. Consider joining a pet loss support group. Or link up with someone you know who lost a pet and was genuinely sad about it.
8. Write down your emotions.”
Consider keeping a journal or scrapbook to aid the processing of your emotions. Journaling allows you to reflect and express unvarnished ideas and feelings. It may include images of your pet, recollections of meaningful locations you’ve visited, and other keepsakes.
9. Know that grief can’t be ranked
You may find yourself trying to rationalize the intensity of your feelings, and it interferes with your heart’s desire to mourn. Some people will want to “rank” their grief by comparing it to the grief of others who may be experiencing “worse” grief.
Although this is typical, your grief is your grief, and anyone grieving a loss should give it the care and attention it deserves.
10. Turn to the spiritual
You might doubt your beliefs about pets and the afterlife as you go through your grieving process. There will be a lot of people around you who will also have opinions. It may be necessary during this time for you to find the right answers for your personal beliefs.
11. Create physical monuments
Also, consider creating a memorial, planting a tree in their honor, producing a photo album or scrapbook, or in some other way commemorating the memories you shared with them. Moving forward might be aided by recalling the joy and love you enjoyed with your beloved pet.
You can also leave a mark in a particular space close to the pet’s grave or plant a unique flower next to the grave to remember the pet by.
12. Try to stick to your regular routine if you have more pets.
When a pet passes away, the survivors may also feel loss, or they may become upset due to your grief. But you must try and stick to the same routine.
Not only will the surviving pets benefit from maintaining their regular routines, but increased exercise and playtime can also improve your attitude and outlook.
Helping kids manage their grief of a pet’s death.
A pet’s death may be your child’s first encounter with death. So it gives you the chance to educate them on how to deal with the grief and pain that always come along with the joy of loving another living thing. Any child can endure trauma after losing a pet.
Many children have a very strong bond with their pets, and some may not even be able to recall a period when the pet wasn’t present. Some kids can become enraged and blame themselves or you for the animal’s demise.
Others might be afraid that the people or other pets they care about would abandon them as well. Whether the event positively or negatively impacts your child’s personal development depends on how you handle the grieving process.
Some parents believe they should avoid talking about their pet’s death or be dishonest about what has happened to protect their kids from grief. But when the kid learns the reality, lying about the animal running away or “going to sleep,” for instance, might make them feel even more deceived, confused, and scared. It’s far preferable to be open and honest with kids and give them space to express their grief. Here are some tips that can help:
- Respect your child’s pain and let them express their emotions without making them feel ashamed or guilty, especially if you don’t share the same sense of loss. Children’s sensitivity and love for their animal companions should make them feel proud.
- Assure your kid that they had nothing to do with the pet’s demise. Children may have many concerns and questions after a pet dies. Your child may need reassurance that their parents are not also likely to pass away. It’s crucial to discuss all of their emotions and worries.
- Allow your younger children to participate in the memorial ceremony. Your kid can express their feelings more freely and aid in grieving by holding a funeral or building a memorial for the pet.
- Do not rush to get the youngster a “replacement pet” before giving them time to express their feelings of loss. Your youngster can feel betrayed, or you might convey the idea that the sorrow and loss experienced when something passes away can be easily forgotten by gettinga new pet.
Helping a family member or friend who is mourning a pet
Here’s what you should do to help a loved one mourning the loss of a pet.
If the person who is mourning wants to discuss it with you, but you are at a loss for words, simply listen. You must keep your feelings to yourself, even if you don’t understand or believe the individual exaggerates the situation. You’re there to offer emotional support.
Additionally, avoid talking about your own pet loss or how you would feel if your pet died because doing so may diminish their suffering and give the impression that you are competing with them in your grief. The best thing you can do is listen sympathetically, since this is about them.
Ask any questions you have.
Do not press the mourning person if they are not providing many details. It’s acceptable to ask them some questions or request more information if they’re willing to talk and you’re genuinely interested. While you don’t want to pry, it could be beneficial for the bereaved to talk about their experiences and not keep them all bottled up.
For instance, if you were aware that the animal was ill, you could wish to inquire about it. Asking about the pet’s funniest or naughtiest antics can help the mourning person remember joyful times and lighten the melancholy.
Tell the owner that they provided the pet with a wonderful life.
Let the owner know they went above and beyond to ensure their pet was always pleased, whether by purchasing the tastiest treats, the cutest toys, or sharing the trendiest pictures online.
Domesticated animals depend on their owners to survive, which can add to the guilt you feel when a pet passes away. Could there have been anything else done? Should they have invested $10,000 in that risky surgery? If the person had to put their pet to sleep for any reason, they might have second thoughts about it. Therefore, keep emphasizing to the owner how lucky the pet was to have them as a parent.
Use the pet’s name.
Never call a pet “beloved dog” or “the cat.” Even if you find it hard to comprehend how heartbroken someone would be over losing a pet, you should nonetheless be polite. Use the name that has been given to it.
Share any fond memories or pictures you may have of the pet.
Nothing is better than someone sharing a cute picture of their pet on Facebook with a thoughtful note. If the bereaved person writes a sincere note about their loss, politely respond with your support and understanding.
They can find comfort in the idea that their pet positively affects others and in being reminded of the pleasant moments.