Losing a pet can be one of the most devastating events in a pet parent’s life. There comes a time when you have to say “goodbye” and suddenly your life is never the same. We don’t openly talk about losing a pet & the grief that comes with it, but most pet parents know that their pet is never just an animal.
Also, unlike other relationships, animals offer an organic connection that you don’t have to overthink or worry about. You love them and they love you—it’s that simple. Very few human relationships provide this level of trust and devotion.
This blog encompasses the understanding of grief, its 5 stages, ways to cope with it as a pet parent & how to cope with your pet’s loss.
Processing grief & the loss of a loved one is a highly individual experience & process. While for some people, grief & sadness come in waves or a series of highs & lows, others go through a 5-stage grief cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance. Although we do, eventually, get through the pain caused by such experiences as time goes by, grief caused by a natural or untimely passing of a pet weighs heavy on the heart.
Feeling sad, shocked or lonely is a completely normal reaction to losing a pet. Sharing or exhibiting these emotions shouldn’t make you feel weak or ashamed, rather mourning & grieving, as gradual as they are, should be experienced with an open heart. What’s important is to be patient with yourself & allow yourself & your family to process their feelings.
Is grieving a pet different than grieving a human?
Psychologists believe that getting through grief is neither a uniform nor a “one-size-fits-all” phenomenon. There are numerous variables attached to death & the bag of emotions it brings along. This debate isn’t about animals’ vs humans but about the value of that animal or human to you & your family. Pets are an integral part of our lives; we share a deep bond with them. For us, a pet is never “just a dog” or “just a cat” but rather a beloved member of our family, bringing companionship, fun, and joy to our lives.
Helping Seniors & Children with processing grief
The passing of a pet can be extra stressful & heavy on seniors & children in the house. Older members who live alone or young, impressionable children who spend more time with their pets find it more difficult to grieve the loss of a pet. Read more here.
How to overcome grief: A step-by-step guide
Let’s take a look at a step-by-step guide to processing & overcoming your grief: -
Take time to Grieve
Your pet may have been a part of your & your family’s life for years, so mourning him may take time. It’s okay. Accept it. There is no set formula, pattern or medicine to overcome death & the complex emotions it brings along. The process of grief cannot be forced or hurried. Be patient with yourself.
Don’t hide, ignore or repress your emotions
Confronting your feelings is the right way to go. Hiding, avoiding, ignoring or repressing such strong feelings of loss, death, grief & sadness can take you down a spiral of despair & depression.
Grief is different for everyone
As a pet parent it is important to understand that everyone’s process of getting through grief is different. It’s important that you & your family stay together in this time of need. Children & seniors are affected greatly as well. It’s best to communicate with them & help them through their journey of processing their grief. To know more, read here.
Create & Keep memories
Physical memories & memorabilia are a great way to remember your pet. Keeping or memorialising your pet’s favourite toys, accessories, collars, tags, pictures, beds, favourite items are a great way to etch him in your memory. The Rainbow Bridge is one such example, so is this website that lets you memorialise your pet, share his pictures and memories with loved ones & celebrate birthdays. Visit here.
Joining a support group
Some people might prefer grieving on social media, among family & friends, while some would want to grieve privately. There are numerous physical support groups as well as on social media. Psychiatrists believe that speaking to a professional can also help with your grieving process.
Stay away from Guilt
It’s important that you or your family members don’t blame themselves for your pet’s passing. Communication is key here, make sure you and your family accept that they did everything they could to keep your pet happy.
“Almost all pet owners feel guilty, no matter what the cause of death, even though they love their pets and would have done anything for them. That’s because people feel responsible for their pets and blame themselves for their death, she says. Know that logically, there was no more you could have done to keep them alive,” - Janet Zimmerman, Loss Counsellor
Take care of other pets
If you have other pets in the house, then they may also be grieving. Their behaviour may change; they may whimper, refuse to eat or drink, act lethargic, especially if they had a close bond with the deceased pet.
Reaching out to others who’ve had similar experiences or have lost pets in the past can create a supportive bubble around you that may ease your grieving process. Check out online message boards & pet loss websites. If people around you aren’t understanding or sympathetic towards your process, find someone who is.
Take care of yourself
The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Spend time face to face with people who care about you, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood.
Getting another pet
Rushing into this decision isn't fair to you or your new pet. Each animal has their own unique personality and a new animal cannot replace the one you lost. You'll know when the time is right to adopt a new pet after giving yourself time to grieve, considering whether you're ready, and paying close attention to your feelings.
Have you lost a pet as well? Tell us your story. Connect with Zoivane Pets on our Website, Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook & YouTube. For suggestions and writeups mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Whatsapp us on +91-9727054006