The loss of a pet can be devastating. It doesn’t matter whether it has been sudden or your pet has been ill for a time or was even elderly. If your pet was a close part of your family the grief you experience may be overwhelming.
Grief affects each of us differently but you might feel a range of emotions from grief to anger. You might suddenly burst into tears. You might find shopping for your other pets difficult. You might become withdrawn and desolate, especially if your pet was your only day-to-day companion.
All emotions are understandable at this difficult time and you should not try to hide your feelings. It is perfectly ok to have a variety of feelings; it is part of your grief.
Ways to get through
Grief is a process that cannot be hastened. Everyone goes through it at their own speed, in their own time. For some, this can be quick, but for others it can take months or even years. There is no right or wrong way to grieve but here are some ideas that might help you cope.
Understand and accept the grief process
At the loss of your pet, you may feel shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness, loneliness, confusion, anxiety and fear before you reach acceptance and adjustment.
Keep in mind that your pet will always have a special place in your heart and in your memory. Don’t underestimate the importance of this – it’s part of what makes us human.
If you can, surround yourself with sympathetic, understanding friends and family.
Speaking about your pet and how you feel about its loss to someone empathetic and understanding can help enormously. This is especially so if they have suffered a similar loss. Talking about your beloved pet helps you work through your grief so share your good memories. Don’t worry if it makes you upset. This is perfectly normal.
It is also important to explain to children what has happened. This may be their first experience of grief so talk to them honestly instead of using words like “put to sleep” which they might confuse with their own sleep, causing added anxiety.
Memorialising your pet
For many people, having the equivalent of a funeral or memorial service helps. This is especially true of children as it gives them a focus for their sadness and helps them understand what is happening. This may be the first time they have encountered death and it will give you an opportunity to explain to them what it means and how they might feel.
If you have a casket for your pet, you may wish to bury it somewhere special or in your garden. Your children might like to decorate it with photos or pictures they have drawn as part of the grief process.
Keeping a diary or a journal through this upsetting time is another good way to express your feelings and help you through it. You can keep it private or share it, if you wish. The process of writing can be liberating and help you to accept your loss.
Be kind to yourself
Giving yourself permission to grieve, as opposed to suppressing emotions, is important. Grief takes many forms and each of us responds differently. It takes time but you will eventually begin to move on.
Look after yourself by eating properly, not taking refuge in alcohol or drugs, and maintaining an exercise regime. The latter may be difficult if your pet was part of your regular routine and you will feel their loss keenly.
It is important to your grieving that you look after yourself because you will feel much worse if you eat poorly or very little, drink too much and don’t get off the couch.
If you have children, involve them in your activities and keep to their usual routines, no matter how difficult this is for you. They may act out or misbehave during this time so show patience and understanding because they will be feeling a range of emotions too, including perhaps helplessness.
Getting professional help
In some cases, obtaining professional help may be necessary. If you are unable to cope and feel your world is falling apart, seeking out a counsellor will help. See below to find a counsellor in your area.
Remember, feeling grief for a departed pet is perfectly natural. You will be upset and sad. But if you try the steps listed above, they will help you cope, to grieve and, after a time, to move on.
And, at Heaven Sent, we are here to help and to make the process easier. Because, we understand what you are going through.
To learn more about grief and loss, click here.
For a list of counsellors, go here.