Saying goodbye to a beloved pet can be one of the hardest things we ever do. Our society doesn’t place much importance on the grief process in general, especially when it comes to pet loss. We can feel isolated and lonely just at the time when we need the most support.
Pets In Stitches realizes this is a difficult time for pet owners. As your partners in pet care, we have some ideas to share about coping with pet loss, and we are here if you need additional assistance.
The Grief Process
Following the loss of a pet, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the pain and depth of your loss. In fact, studies show that trying to speed the grief process along tends to actually prolong it.
Coping With Pet Loss
Give yourself permission to grieve. You’ve experienced a tremendous loss, and you deserve the time and space necessary to grieve. Surround yourself with friends and family who understand the bond you shared with your pet, and who support you with no judgement.
Talk about it. Turn to a trusted friend or family member who will allow you to talk at length. Reminisce about your pet, and all the happy times. Find a support group, call a pet loss grief hotline, and acknowledge your loss. If it’s hard to talk to others, try writing in a journal, painting, or expressing your feelings in other ways.
Address guilt. If your pet was sick, and you made the decision for euthanasia, you may harbor feelings of guilt. Instead of seeing this as taking your pet’s life, try to think of euthanasia as a gift you gave them to spare them from the suffering and pain that can occur at the end of life.
Give yourself permission to backslide. Certain triggers can bring up grief when you least expect it. After a loss, you may experience many moments – the first night you don’t feed your pet, the first morning you don’t take her for a walk, the first anniversary of her passing – these moments may bring up feelings of grief that you don’t expect. It’s ok to grieve strongly again.
Be patient with yourself. The grief process isn’t linear, and can take longer than society believes it should. Take as long as you need! Whatever memories are left in your home, don’t feel pressured to remove them. For example, some people need to leave pet pictures, pet hair, and muddy pawprints alone for awhile. Process the loss of your pet in whatever way feels right to you.
Help children cope. Just like adults, children feel the loss of a pet deeply, too. They also deserve the chance to process their own feelings of loss in their own unique ways. Young children process their feelings through action. Experts recommend finding ways to honor your pet’s life with remembrances that your children can participate in.
Memorializing Your Pet
Choosing ways to remember your pet can be a wonderful way to process feelings of loss. Here are some ideas for celebrating your pet’s life.
- Plant a tree or flower in your pet’s honor
- Hold a celebration of life ceremony with friends and family
- Light a candle and talk about special memories of your pet
- Create a memory box with pictures, stories, or mementoes of your pet
- Send cards to people who were involved in your pet’s care, such as your veterinarian, groomer, and pet sitters
- Draw a picture of your pet with your kids and talk about happy times
- Have a piece of jewelry created out of your pet’s nose print or ID tags
- Write your pet a letter recalling your time together
Grief is an active process. Know that it’s ok to think about and remember your pet, and don’t try to stuff things down or numb your feelings. Take good care of yourself with exercise, enough sleep, and healthy foods. You don’t have to ignore how you feel or feel pressured to “move on.” As strange as it may seem, recalling happy memories of your pet is a healthy pastime!
Making the decision for humane medical or behavioral euthanasia is one of the toughest moments in a pet parent’s life. While you’re struggling with this situation, we know that the price tag for such service can be just as problematic. At other local practices, it can be well over $250! At Pets in Stitches, we now offer medically & behaviorally indicated humane euthanasia for only $100. If there are no recent medical records that clearly support need for euthanasia, a $35 doctor exam will be required prior.
A hard topic for everyone involved, we just want you to know that when that time comes, you have options. Give us a call for more information. If you need more assistance or resources for coping with pet loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Pets In Stitches.