Our pets are members of our families. They cuddle up with us at night, they accompany us on camping trips to chase squirrels and race us up hiking trails and they entice us to fill our camera roll with photo after photo of total cuteness, whether they are asleep, paws curled gracefully beneath their heads, or they’re awake, tails wagging madly as they greet us at the door.
When love between a human and a pet is so immeasurable, when they die, grief is a painful but inevitable emotion.
What to Expect After a Loss
Because of the unconditional love we receive from our companion animals, it’s perfectly natural to grieve the loss of your pet. And the same emotions that we experience after a human loss – denial, anger, sorrow and acceptance – are natural emotions that can follow the loss of a companion animal.
Although each person grieves in their own way, even after we accept that our pets are gone, grief can be a near-constant companion for a time, especially because the loss of a pet can bring the pain of other losses back to the surface, where they mingle together, causing additional sadness.
Death of Pet a Can Be Particularly Devastating
Along with the grief of losing a pet companion comes an array of other complex emotions, including feelings of guilt. We often berate ourselves for not having played more, for not having gone for longer walks, for not replacing that laser toy that our cat loved so much, especially if your pet’s death is the result of euthanasia, which is one of the most difficult decisions of pet owner will ever have to make.
Accentuating the loss of a pet can be the lack of a strong support system from those around you. Because those without pets may not understand the level of pain and sorrow that consumes someone who has lost their beloved dog or cat, someone you considered a cherished member of your family, the emotional support that exists when human loved ones pass away may not be available when a pet dies.
How Can We Feel Better?
Because funerals often bring a sense of closure for families dealing with the loss of a loved one, holding a ceremony to honor your pet – perhaps spreading your dog’s ashes in a place where he or she particularly loved to play or holding a small funeral of sorts for your cat, inviting family and friends who loved your fur baby as much as you did or truly understands the depth of your love – can help ease pain because you will be surrounding yourself with the love of others.
Seeking out a support system – friends and family who understand your grief, support groups or online chat rooms or social media groups – can also help ease grief.
What About a New Pet?
Most experts recommend not getting a new pet immediately after the loss of a beloved family friend – you may initially resent a new pet, which can minimize much-needed bonding, many professionals say – there are other options to help you through the grieving process.
A Petagious Replica – a handmade stuffed animal painstakingly crafted to resemble your lost pet – can help alleviate some of the loss by giving you a version of your pet that brings to mind the happy memories you shared with your dog or cat, reminding you of the unconditional love you and your pet shared.
For children, the loss of a pet may be their first experience with death, and they may also be experiencing complex emotions. A Petagious Best Friend is a good option to help children work through their grief, because it gives them something to cuddle with at night as well as during times when they may miss their pet the most.
Then, if and when you are ready, there is most likely a shelter pet someone who needs you just as much as you need him or her to fill that void in your heart.