You’re Not Alone
If you recently lost a much-loved pet companion, please know that you have our deepest condolences. As pet lovers and pet loss professionals, the staff at Paws is available when you need a sympathetic person to talk to. Sometimes just knowing that the grief you are feeling is “normal” can be helpful in itself, which is why we felt it was so important to present some information about the grief process. For those who need a greater degree of pet loss support than we can offer, Paws has provided a list of helpful resources below.
The First Step is to Acknowledge Your Grief
Those who have never known the unconditional love and deep bond that forms between people and their animal companions might not understand your grief. Well-meaning friends might even suggest that you need to “just get over it,” as though grieving the loss of a pet is an unreasonable thing to do. They’re wrong. It’s okay to grieve your loss. In fact, as animal lovers we can’t imagine not grieving the loss of a pet. Recognizing this and acknowledging the feelings of grief that you have is often an important first step.
Be Aware of the Grieving Process
As you are mourning your pet’s death you will most likely go through what’s known as the five stages of grief:
Your experience with each of these stages – how it affects you and how long it lasts – will be unique to you, but chances are you will eventually experience all five.
Be aware, though, that grief is a process, and it is not always “neat and tidy.” For some it can be quite circular. For example, you may think you’re through with the “anger” stage, only to find the feelings of anger coming back unexpectedly weeks or months later. In fact, grief is a very personal experience that is likely to affect each member of your family differently.
Children Can Find Losing a Pet Especially Difficult
For many children a pet’s death is their first experience with death and losing a loved one. Your child may blame himself for the pet’s death, or be extremely angry that you or the veterinarian were not able to save your pet. This may be the first time your child realizes that those he loves may not always be there for him, and this can be a very frightening realization. Not knowing what to do with their feelings of anger, guilt, fear and sorrow, children sometimes begin to act out or exhibit other behavior problems. Sharing your own feelings of sadness can help your child see that grief is normal. But if you are not able to help your child work through his feelings of grief, a professional pet loss counselor can help.
You may find the following resources helpful as you work through your grief:
Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, an educational resource in the pet loss discipline.
Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people grieve the loss of their pet.
Law Offices of Jane Beaumont Hall, Pet Trust. Jane Beaumont Hall is an attorney who works closely with veterinarians and pet owners to help ensure that pets will be properly cared for in the event that the pet owner cannot care for them.