Coping with the Loss of a Pet
It is true that most of us share an intense bond and love for our pets. It is more than normal to feel genuine feelings of grief and devastation when one of your much loved animal companions passes away. The pain can be as bad as if it were a family member who died, and can often be overwhelming, resulting in lots of difficult emotions to process.
It can be common for people who do not have a pet to not understand the depth of grief involved with losing a pet, but you should never feel odd or guilty for the way you feel about a death of a pet. Grieving an animal that was a huge part of your life is very normal and healthy.
Interestingly, there is a debate about whether animals can sense death – but today we have tips on how you can best cope with the scope of your loss, comfort yourself and others if they are affected, and overall begin to process what has happened and eventually move on.
Why does losing a pet hurt so much?
It can seem strange to those who do not have a pet, but losing one can be just as bad as losing a family member or friend – because, lets face it, they were family to you and a very loyal friend. For the large majority of people, a pet is not just a case of “it’s just a dog” or “just a cat”. Rather, your pet was a unique individual, one who brought joy, fun, companionship and maybe even purpose to our lives. Having a pet can add structure to your day, and when they are gone, as is your way of life as it was, essentially. They can also keep you fit and social, helping you to overcome setbacks and challenges in your life. Therefore, you can see why it is extremely normal to grieve a pet so much.
Whilst it is true that we all respond differently to the news of death, the amount of grief you experience may depend on a few factors, such as your age and personality, the age and type of pet, and the way in which your pet died. In general, the more significant your pet was to you, the more pain you will experience. For example, if your pet was a service animal or therapy animal, then you have to factor in that you are also grieving the loss of a coworker, your loss of independence or emotional support. If you lived alone and your pet was your companion around this house, this can also make it harder to come to terms with. If you were in a position were you were unable to pay for expensive veterinary treatment to prolong the life of your pet, you may even feel guilty – but it is not your fault.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding your loss, you need to remember that the grieving process is personal to you, so please never feel ashamed of how you are feeling. For some people, the belief is that you it is inappropriate to grieve an animal. While its inevitable that your pet will die at some point, there are healthy ways to go through the grieving process and cope with the pain, and perhaps in time even open up your heart and home to another animal friend.
The grieving process after losing a pet
As mentioned, grieving is a personal and a highly individual process. In is common to experience grief which involves a pet in stages. These stages may include; denial, anger, guilt, depression and in time, acceptance. Other people see grief as more of a cycle, which can be a series of highs and lows. The lows that you will experience are likely to be a lot lower and longer at the start of the process, just after death. Gradually, the lows will become shorter and less intense as time goes by. Still, maybe even years after a loss of a pet, certain reminders can trigger a strong sense of grief. This could be a sight, smell, sound or a special date.
It can be frustrating, but the grieving process needs time to conclude. It cannot be hurried along or forced and there is not “normal” time frame to work within. Some people take weeks, others can take years. It is important to allow the process to naturally unfold so that you can get on with your life. Be patient with yourself.
Feelings of sadness, shock and loneliness is a normal reaction to the death of your pet. Showing these feelings in the light of a loss does not mean you are weak or that you are overreacting. All it means is that you are mourning the loss of a pet that was close to you and that you loved.
Do not try and ignore the pain, it will surface one day and it will be far uglier than combatting it head on and letting it unfold naturally. By expressing the grief you feel in real time, you will be able to heal quicker than if you bottle up your emotions. You can write about your feelings or talk about them with others who are going to be sympathetic – remember, some people will not understand if they do not have a pet or a pet that has died, even. Reaching out to those who have lost pets will be of great comfort to you.
Do not let anyone tell you how you should feel. You need to listen to your emotions and deal with your loss however will help you come to terms with it. Your grief is yours, and never let anyone tell you when the right time to “move on” is or that you should “get over it”.
If you need to, do not be afraid to seek professional help. This may be wise if the grief is persistent and is interfering with your ability to function. Try your best to keep to a normal routine and be kind to yourself, both physically and mentally.
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