Pets are like family members. It makes sense then when you lose your pet, it’s emotionally difficult. You may wonder how to deal with the grief and sense of loss you feel. So, how do you deal with the grief of losing a pet?
Realities of Your Struggles After Losing a Pet
Here are some realities you will face as life goes on without your furry friend.
1 – The pain of losing a pet is real
Your pet is part of your life. Sadly, the death of your pet is inescapable because your pet has a much shorter life span than you. Facing your pet’s death is grievous and painful. It hurts your heart.
Studies found that pet owners who lose their pets may have trouble sleeping, have eating disorders, limit their social life, and may have trouble at their job. They’re apt to be depressed, anxious, lonely, and have feelings of emptiness.
You may want to seek out professional help if you’re grieving the loss of your pet. Talking with a counselor gives you strategies to walk through this difficult time.
2 – Grief is normal after losing a pet
Don’t feel bad about grieving the loss of your pet. It’s a normal reaction. You’ll feel a span of emotions as you grieve. You may go through some or all seven of the stages of grief which are: grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Be sure to talk to someone like a trusted friend or family member about how you’re feeling. Other pet owners will understand your grief, especially those who’ve lost pets. Hang out with them and talk about your sadness. They’ll be supportive and empathetic to your loss.
3 – Don’t try to ignore your grief
Ignoring grief doesn’t make it go away. You are actually prolonging the healing process when you choose to stuff it and pretend you’re fine. You may be afraid of these strong emotions you’re feeling. That’s normal. Find an emphatic pet owner who’s lost a pet. They can help you walk through your grief.
4 – Self-care after you lose a pet
Take care of yourself while you grieve the loss of your pet. Take your medicines, exercise, and eat healthy foods. Don’t give in to eating to ease your pain.
Loads of ice cream and chips won’t help your grieving process. Plus, if you gain weight, you’ll feel even worse about your circumstances.
Self-care means caring for all of you. Listen to uplifting podcasts or read a book on positivity for your mind. Look to your faith for strength during this painful time for your soul. Speak to your pastor about your grief, ask for prayer.
5 – Face your grief, one day at a time
Grief is emotional, but it affects you physically, too. You may feel like your heart is broken, you may feel the saddest you’ve ever felt. That’s okay, take it a day at a time. Don’t rush your grieving or feel bad about it.
Face one day with all its emotions, and the next day face a new day. Cut yourself some slack in other areas of your life. Don’t worry too much about finishing making photo books of your summer vacation, unless you want to make a photo book of your pet.
Create a schedule of eating, working, playing, and sleeping. Try to stick to this so you won’t have to remember if you ate or not. Routine can help bring comfort and just help you get through another day.
6 – People (non-pet owners) may not get it
Some people will minimize your loss. They don’t do this out of meanness, but without thinking. Sometimes people are clueless.
Studies show that our society underestimates the supportive nature of a pet and how grievous it is to lose your pet. It’s hard to accept the loss. People don’t understand what it pet loss feels like, especially if they’re not a pet owner.
They may say things like, “Are you getting another pet?” or “It was just a cat.”
You will need to navigate comments like this without getting bitter or angry at these people. Talk to other pet owners who will understand your frustration at such comments.
7 – Find support in a group
Pet bereavement groups are growing. Researchers in Italy found that there’s a growing need for pet bereavement and end of life for Italian pet owners. Many pets are therapy animals, not just pets. Pet counseling services are growing in the U.S. Research online to see if there’s a pet bereavement group in your area.
Ask your vet, they may know of groups within their practice. Don’t suffer alone. When you find a bereavement group, you’ll find like-minded folks who understand and can help you walk through your grief without fear of being misunderstood.
8 – Take care of your other pets
If you have other pets, be sure to show them attention. They are probably feeling some loss of their friend, too. Animals are sensitive. They can become depressed and sad when they lose an animal buddy, especially if they played together a lot.
Take your other dog for a longer walk than normal, or play with your cat a bit more. Hold them and pet them. Talk to them in a soft, kind voice, letting them know you’re here for them. As you comfort your pets in their grief, you will feel better about your own grief.
9 – Gratitude for your pet
Be grateful for the time you had with your pet. At first, memories may be too painful, but over time you’ll be able to cherish your memories.
Keep a gratitude journal and jot down all the ways your pet was a blessing. Write out the funny things your pet did, the scary medical trips, etc.
Find ways to cultivate gratitude for what you had, not what you’ve lost. It can help you turn your sadness into gladness and gratefulness.
10 – You’re not alone
Remember, you are not alone. Pets die every day. So many people miss their pets and feel sad about their loss. Take heart knowing others have gone through this experience and have found the courage and strength to get through it.
Talking with other owners who’ve lost their pets can help. There may be someone going through the loss of a pet, and you can help them. Helping others sometimes eases your own grief and pain.
How to Help Others Who Have Lost Their Pets
If you’ve lost a pet, you know the grief and sadness you feel. When someone you know goes through a similar experience, find ways to help them walk through the grief of losing their pet. Good chance you’re the best person to help them since you understand how it feels.
1 – Show them you care
Call them, take over a meal, stop by and take them out for coffee. Tell your grieving friend that you’re praying for them. Bring them a special dessert of a smoothie. Take them for a drive and allow them to talk about their pet. Tell them you understand how it feels. Tell them it’s normal what they feel, you felt that, too. Make them feel loved and cared for.
2 – Be there for them
Tell them to call you anytime, day or night. Reassure them of your friendship and commitment to them through this dark time. Knowing someone is walking with you through these helps ease the pain and sadness of the loss.
3 – Talk and listen
Be a good listener. If they want to talk to you, just listen. Don’t correct them or try to point out a positive. Nod your head and look into their eyes. At some point, they’ll ask you a question like, “How did you get through this?” or “What should I do?”
Then you can talk, reassure them you care for them, and want to listen to their grief. Tell them what helped you or what helped other people you know who’ve gone through the same thing. Having someone who will listen is huge. It will help your friend work out their feelings and worries.
4 – Recognize the connection they had with their pet
Tell them you noticed what a great bond they had with their pet. You noticed how their pet liked to be with them, and what a great owner they were. They’ll feel like you understand their sadness.
5 – Help them work through any guilt
Maybe they didn’t take their pet to the vet quickly, and it got too sick to save. Or perhaps they didn’t close the fence, and their pet got out. Maybe they had to euthanize their old pet who had cancer. Guilt is a common part of grieving. There are always feelings of “I should have done more.”
If your friend is feeling this reassure them that they did the right thing. Accidents happen, they can’t blame themselves.
Final Thoughts on The Grief You Feel Over Losing a Pet
When you lose a pet, you will grieve. You may feel sad, worried, lonely, or depressed. It’s normal to feel this way. It will go away after a while, but in the meantime don’t ignore your grief or try to push it away. It won’t go away, but will pop out in another circumstance.
Be sure to take care of yourself and your other pets. They will be grieving, too. Take it a day at a time, but be aware that some people won’t understand what you’re going through. That’s okay because you can surround yourself with those who do in a pet bereavement group or a close friend who loves pets like you.
If you find yourself not being able to shake the grief, seek out professional counseling to help you get through.
Once you’re gone through the loss of a pet, you’re equipped to help others get through grieving a lost pet. Find ways to care and reassure them of your love. Listen to them and let them know you have their back as they walk through their grief.