Coping with the loss of your pet

Loss is one of the most difficult emotions to deal with. It brings with it much pain, sadness, regret and sometimes guilt. It doesn't matter if the loss is a person, job, health, an opportunity, or a pet. It can affect you the same way no matter what prompted the loss.

Unfortunately, our society does not seem to acknowledge our attachments to our furry friends. When you lose a pet, you may hear things like, "get over it", or "you can always get another dog or cat." They don't know or understand how attached you were to your pet. It feels as if you have lost a member of the family, because for you he/she was a member of your family. So, on top of grieving for your loss, there is a lack of support, empathy and understanding amongst those closest to you. This makes the loss feel even greater as you have to grieve alone and can't share it with the people closest to you.

You need to be able to express your grief in any way that feels right to you. Whether you need to cry, beat on the pillows, get angry or just talk about it. There is no reason for you to feel embarrassed or need to excuse your reactions. If people suggest that you are over-reacting or being silly, it just means that they don't understand and, they are unaware of how much your pet has contributed to the quality of your life. Your dog or cat or guinea pig, was loved by you and gave you unconditional love. He or she was a member of your family and for some people, the only member who was always there for you. You have nothing to apologize for or be ashamed of. They are the ones falling short for not supporting and helping you through this painful time.

There are steps you can take that will help you through the grieving process.

  • Have a funeral for your pet. Write out an eulogy and invite your friends to join you.
  • Write a letter of goodbye to your pet. Let him know that you miss him. Thank him for all the love and joy he gave to you and tell him you had to let him go because you knew he wouldn't want to stay just to suffer.
  • Take out pictures of your pet in happier days. Make an album with his pictures and look at it daily to remember all the joy he has brought into your life.
  • Talk about your pet with supportive friends, and pet lovers, or find a grief counselor, such as myself, who is compassionate and empathic to your pain and will help you go gently through the grieving process.

Know you are not alone or crazy. Losing a pet can be devastating and can catapult you into a clinical depression. Sometimes one loss triggers memories of other losses and this can complicate and extend the grieving process. There are no rules for grief. Loss is loss and should not be judged or minimized, just supported. It will take as long as it needs to take.. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Don't judge yourself or minimize your pain because you fear being judged by others. Never be embarrassed about loving anyone or anything. Their love made you a better and more compassionate person, and that is a gift.

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