Your gain: We’ll talk about the difficulty of losing a pet, why this particular loss can be so painful, and ways to cope that honor the memory of your sweet pet.
Why Losing a Pet is So Difficult
Losing a pet can be incredibly difficult for a lot of reasons, which are what we’ll talk about in this blog post today. What I really want you to know first and foremost is that it is 100% normal and valid to mourn a pet as you would a human, no matter how quickly people around you feel you need to move on. This type of loss can be very devastating, and with any devastating loss, this can take time and patience!
While you may know why losing a pet is so painful because you’re in the process of feeling it, I hope by first acknowledging these things gives you a little validation today. This will also help set us up for how to cope, which we’ll talk about, too.
The Emotional Bond
Let’s be real, pets often become cherished members of our families. They provide companionship, unconditional love, support, and so much more. Over time, a deep emotional bond forms, and losing that bond can result in profound grief. From that feeling of them always being there for us to providing a source of emotional support and stability. When they pass away, we may feel a significant void in our lives.
Pets rely on us for their well-being. We take care of their physical and emotional needs, and they become an integral part of our daily routines and lives. When a pet dies, we not only mourn the loss of their presence but also the role we played in their lives and the routines we shared.
Lack of Closure
Unlike humans, pets can’t express their feelings or communicate their needs in the same way. This can make it difficult to fully understand their pain or condition before they pass away. This lack of closure can lead to feelings of guilt or regret as we may question if we did enough or made the right decisions for our pets. Let me tell you, I 100% have been there with my sweet dog, Princess.
My Lack of Closure
Two days prior to when she died, much against my own intuition, her vet was imploring me to give her a (unnecessary, in my eyes) rabies shot when I was simply trying to pick up medications for her. I was concerned about her being 19 years old and how she might react to it. Just like that, she began to have seizures within 20 minutes of the shot as I was driving her home. They continued to happen more frequently, her condition grew worse, and ultimately she died two days later after two visits to the emergency vet hospital.
I have scarcely regretted more in my life. In going against what I felt was best for her, she ended up dying. Now, while I know deep down I thought I was making the right decision in trusting the vet, that stayed with me (and still does… my blood is boiling even writing this). Truthfully, I have a really hard time talking about and even admitting that. I felt shame, deep regret and guilt, and was horrified at the entire situation.
Can I go back and change it? No, sadly I can’t. But it absolutely resulted in a lack of closure that I’ve never fully healed from. It took a lot of self-reflection and self forgiveness to allow me even a little solace and the ability to move forward.
Pets provide a unique form of companionship. They often listen attentively (or not, even when we think they are, lol!), provide comfort during difficult times, and offer a source of non-judgmental support. Losing a pet means losing that constant presence and a source of solace.
Each pet has its own distinct personality, quirks, and characteristics. Losing a pet means losing a unique and irreplaceable relationship. The loss is compounded by the fact that it is often challenging to find another pet that perfectly fills the void left by the one we lost. Not that we’re trying to replace them! But one day, if we can muster up the strength to get a new furry friend, this can be a painful process.
Truthfully, I still can’t even think about getting a new pet of any kind and it has been two years since Princess died.
Ways to Cope with Losing a Pet
As a deeply painful and emotional experience, coping with the death of a pet is a personal journey and everyone grieves in their own way. Here are some suggestions that may help you during this difficult time.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
First and foremost, recognize and accept your feelings of sadness, loss, loneliness, confusion, anger, guilt… you name it. It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions, especially when it comes to a pet loss. I think, too, pet loss is especially complicated for many of the reasons listed above. Give yourself permission to mourn the loss of your beloved pet, despite how long anyone else feels it should take.
Create a Memorial
Consider creating a special memorial or tribute to honor your pet’s memory. This could be anything from planting a tree or flowers in their honor, creating a photo album or scrapbook, or writing a letter expressing your feelings. I personally have a keychain with my late dog’s sweet face on it, an ornament with her paw print on it that the animal hospital offered us, and a necklace with her nickname on it, to name a few. I’ve also posted about her memory on social media before, too!
Take Care of Yourself
Be gentle with yourself during the grieving process. So often societal norms don’t allow us to acknowledge how devastating a pet loss can be. Like any other kind of loss, practice self-care by eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you comfort or joy. Physical activity can also help reduce stress and improve your mood. Even just one walk a day!
Remember Your Sweet Pet
Cherish the memories and the time you spent with your pet in a way that feels right for you and create a tribute in whatever way feels fitting. Put their photos on display, keep their belongings as mementos (I still have Princess’ brush and harness/leash), or write down your favorite memories in a journal.
Consider Volunteering or Donating
Some find solace in giving back to animals in need by volunteering at an animal shelter or making a donation to a pet-related charity in their pet’s name. This can not only provide a sense of purpose and healing, but if you’re not quite ready to dive into getting another, it’s a great way to get a fix in!
Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who understand the bond you had with your pet. And, don’t be afraid to share your feelings and memories with them! Sometimes talking about your pet and sharing stories can provide much-needed comfort and solace. If you’re finding it difficult to cope with the loss on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist or counselor who specializes in pet loss or grief counseling. They can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs, and just like losing a fellow human, this grief needs to be addressed, too!
Remember, mourning our beloved pet takes some time. There’s really no right or wrong way to cope—just make sure it’s a healthy coping mechanism! Allow yourself the ever-sacred space and time you need to heal, and be patient with yourself as you navigate through the grieving process. Just like anything else, a pet can play a massive role in our lives and this deserves to be recognized.
Explore my Course and Freebies!
I have FOUR free tools you can take advantage of if you’re ready to step up your grief work. I’m so excited to share these with you! My Gratitude in Grief Journal Prompt, From Grief to Grinning Toolkit, A Practice in Presence Toolkit, and Creating a Vibrant Life Toolkit are ready and waiting for you to download. All you have to do is click here or the button below.
Needing some more in-depth grief education, coaching, and coping tools? Look no further—meet the Grief Becomes Gains Online Course! This course is over 20 hours and 10 modules of material that can be done at your pace, on your terms. Come back to it over and over as you need it, because once you own this, you own it for life! You also receive a 100+ page toolkit, a monthly coaching call with fellow grievers and me to connect and talk all things grief, and more.
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