Seven ways of coping with the loss of a pet
1. Talk through it. The best thing you can do is find people you can talk to about your pet. Find someone who will allow you to talk at length and reminisce. Find a support group, or call a hotline — many veterinary schools have them — and take as long as you need.
2. Address any feelings of guilt. While many people hope their pet will pass quietly in his sleep, it may not happen that way. As an owner, you may need to face the possibility of euthanasia. Many pet owners struggle with feelings of guilt at having to make that choice for their beloved friend. Don’t think of it as taking your pet’s life, but see it as a privilege and a gift to spare them from those very hard end stages of the dying process, when there’s a lot of pain and suffering.
3. Consider a ceremony. Many people find great comfort in gathering with friends and family to remember their cherished pet, either with a ceremony before or during euthanasia, or after their pet has passed. A lot of people handle euthanasia as a memorial service or funeral. It’s a time for them to say goodbye and also celebrate the pet’s life. The ceremonies can be gut-wrenching, but also very cathartic.
4. If you have children, help them with remembrances. Children feel the loss deeply, too. Allow them to talk as much as they need to about their sadness. Giving them the opportunity to do something physically sometimes helps kids work through their pain. Children can draw a picture, make a clay paw print or release a balloon into the sky for their special pet.
5. Take your time. It’s important to go at your own pace. Deal with your grief as long as you need to, and don’t feel rushed to “get over” your sorrow. Everyone’s grief is an individual process. We all find comfort in different things. If there are muddy foot prints on the back window and fur on the floor, and you’re not ready to give them up yet — then leave them right there.
6. Tie up loose ends. If you’re having lingering questions or doubts about how your pet died, make an appointment with your veterinarian to get your questions answered. Don’t leave yourself wondering for years to come — be sure you can move forward without any questions or doubts.
7. Memorialize your pet. Find a way that is meaningful to you to honor your pet. Planting trees or memorial gardens, volunteering, making a donation to a favorite animal charity or installing a plaque in the yard are some ways to keep your pet’s memory alive. Among the myriad other options are cremation or memorial urns and placement in a pet cemetery.
Grief is an active process. It is important to understand that it’s completely normal to mourn the loss of your pet. You have to realize it’s a significant loss, it’s going to be real and it’s going to hurt. You have to find ways to cope with it. Don’t ignore it or try to avoid it. Difficult though it may be, be open to feelings of grief when they occur and take the time to work through your sorrow. And, be comforted in the thought that there will come a day when you can remember your friend with fond memories and love from a strong heart.
Including age-related developmental stages
Children and Pet Loss
Pet Loss Web Sites
Pet Honoring - pet loss resources and honoring all aspects of our pets lives
Association for Pet Loss & Bereavement - pet loss support groups
Grief Healing including a discussion site
Spirits In Transition - Good information on pet hospice
What does the Bible say about animals in heaven?Coping with Pet Loss - more great links
Need To Talk/Online Chat?
ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline - 877- GRIEF-10 (877-474-3310)
Pet Loss Books
Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die
- Jon Katz
Grieving the Death of a Pet
- Betty Carmack
Coping With Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet
- M. Anderson
Pet Loss and Human Bereavement
- W. Kay
Animals as Teachers and Healers
- S. McElroy
A Final Act of Caring: Ending the Life of an Animal Friend
- M. Montgomery
Pet Loss : A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children
- H. Neiburg.
Tibetan Book of Living & Dying
- Sogyal Rinpoche
Kindred Spirit, Kindred Care: Making Health Decisions on Behalf of Our Animal Companions
- Shannon F. Nakaya, DVM
It's Okay To Cry - M.L. Quintana
Pet Loss Books Especially for Children
When a Pet Dies - F. Rogers
Dog Heaven - C. Rylant
Cat Heaven - C. Rylant