Not A Day Goes By: Grieving and Coping With Pet Loss

Mourning doves perched on a sign in a pet cemetery, Andrade, California.Due to the potent combination of constant companionship and total dependency, many  bereaved pet owners struggle when a pet passes away. Whether unexpectedly or sudden, a pet’s death can shake a person to the very core, and the choppy waters of grief can be challenging (at best) to navigate.

We understand that everyone handles grief and pet loss differently and, in honor of World Pet Memorial Day on June 14, we hope to help any individuals or families struggling to cope.

Indelible Paw Print

The bond between you and your pet is strong, deep, and rewarding. You’ve been through a lot together, and both of your lives have been enriched by the other. This sweet relationship can make handling grief nearly impossible for pet owners after a pet’s loss, as memories are triggered and sadness pervades your every breath.

The Stages Of Grief

There are five stages of grief. Not everyone feels each one, and the stages aren’t necessarily experienced in any order. That being said, it’s perfectly natural for you to feel:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Furthermore, feelings of guilt can override your grieving process, and pet owners commonly feel like a pet’s illness or death is their “fault” – even if it is out of their hands.

Isolation also dovetails with depression, as there are many social influences that do not understand or accept the consuming sadness following a pet’s death. Reassure family and friends that your sorrow is part of the process. Remember to ask for help if you need it, and do not feel ashamed for your feelings of despair.

You are not alone on the path toward comfort, healing, and acceptance.

How To Find Help

You may find that the best support is beyond your usual circle of family and friends, and seeking out others who have lost pets (and thus understand the magnitude of your grief) can help your process enormously.

We also offer our Pet Loss Library to console you and connect you with others. You can also find local support groups and counselors, call the ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline at (877) GRIEF-10, or visit Pet Loss and Bereavement Resource Directory for more information.

Honoring Your Pet

There are many ways for you to honor and appreciate your pet’s life:

  • Host a funeral or memorial service
  • Cast your pet’s paw print in stone or plaster and place lovingly near a spot he or she preferred
  • Frame a photograph, drawing, or painting of your pet and hang on the wall
  • Plant a tree in memory of your pet
  • Create a scrapbook that details your shared memories
  • Hold onto a keepsake box that holds your pet’s collar, leash, toys, blankets, and bowl
  • Write a song, story, letter or poem for your pet
  • Choose a paw on our website’s memorial wall

A Time For Everything

If you have other pets in your household, try to keep up with the expected routine. Your pet’s absence will be noticeable, but fear or apprehension can increase if the day-to-day schedule of meals and exercise is disturbed. Consider boosting everyone’s spirits (your’s too) with extra exercise and play time.

Moving On After Pet Loss

It’s critical to work through the stages of grief prior to adopting another pet. Your heart needs to heal after a pet loss, and the void should not be filled by another pet until you are truly ready to love and care again. Please call us with any questions concerns. We are here to support you during this trying time.

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posted in:  You & Your Pet