Our pets are central to our lives, often being important members of the family and becoming part of our everyday routine, and so suffering from the loss of a pet can be an incredibly difficult experience. Nothing can truly prepare you or help you overcome the pain of the loss, but this guide can assist in supporting you through what is sure to be a challenging time.
Every case is different
Pet loss will look different to everyone, whether your pet naturally comes to the end of their life or if you have to make the difficult decision to relieve them of pain or even rehome them. All of these situations can cause distress and may lead to feelings of guilt and sadness, but knowing you’ve made the right decision for you and your pet is the important thing to remember.
Allow yourself to grieve
The first thing to note may seem obvious, but it can often be overlooked. Our pets are more than just animals, they act as our companions and become our family, and so grieving their loss shouldn’t be undermined or considered anything other than completely natural. Allow yourself to be upset and miss them, there’s no need to rush or feel ashamed, their loss and your reaction doesn’t need to be validated by anyone else, let yourself grieve.
Different opinions don’t apply here
People react differently to pet bereavement, and opinions can vary on how significantly we feel the loss of a pet. There’s no need to justify your sadness or explain how important your pet was to you, your grief is normal and no-one else needs to give you permission to feel upset. Take your time, there’s no timeline in how or when we overcome grief, healing is an entirely personal process.
One way to encourage the healing process is to remember your pet and how much positivity they contributed to your life. Their legacy is important, and so creating an album of photos will focus on the happiness and joy that they brought to your life. Holding a ceremony might help process the loss, particularly for children, whether that’s a burial where you acknowledge the pet’s importance or you choose to cremate them and scatter their ashes in a place that has personal importance.
Maintain a routine
Maintaining an existing routine can be enormously helpful in dealing with grief, and is particularly important if you have another pet that will likely feel the impact of loss just as we do. Having a structure in place and keeping a sense of normality will help them acclimatise to the change, whilst also keeping you focused and offering a welcome distraction during a difficult time.
Helping children when a pet dies
Depending on your child’s age, they will likely react to the loss with sadness and will need varying levels of support. Acknowledging the loss and encouraging them to be open about their emotions will help, as well as using language they will understand if they’re younger. It’s important to discuss the situation, but be sensitive in mentioning any distressing details they might struggle to cope with.
A new companion
When and whether you decide to introduce a new pet or not is entirely up to you. It can be tempting to fill the empty space that your pet has left, but avoid making any hasty decisions before you’ve grieved. Only you will know when the time is right, and knowing that this new fur friend isn’t a replacement or filling a void, but is an entirely new personality.
You’re not alone
The pain and distress of pet loss should never be overlooked or undermined. If you’re struggling and your grief has gone beyond just feeling upset, it’s worth remembering that you're not alone and there is support in place for you. There are options available if you’re finding it especially challenging to cope, including Blue Cross, who you can contact for free on 0800 096 6606.