There are few things on this earth as precious as a pet’s love. They are our constant companions, walking through lie with us day-by-day, following us from room to room and staring at us with their soulful eyes. It’s no wonder that we grieve so deeply when lose one of our beloved Animal companions.
Let’s be honest, sometimes we grieve the pets that have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge more than we grieve people. If you’re struggling with such a loss, work through the grief in a way that makes the most sense to you.
1. Understand the Stages of Grief
When faced with loss, everyone goes through five specific stages of grief. Those stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Each person goes through these stages in a different way and at a different pace, so don’t feel that you have to “be over” something just because others already moved on.
2. Figure Out the Way You Mourn
Since everyone experiences grief a bit differently, take the time to figure out how you mourn. If you’ve suffered any other losses, how you handled those times clues you into how you might handle the loss of your pet. Eighty-seven percent of pet owners experience at least one symptom of grief and 22 percent still experience grief after one year. Knowing the symptoms you experience allows you to move through the stages are the pace that is best for you.
3. Remember Better Times
One thing you can do that will help refocus your energy is to focus on happy Memories of your pet. Take the time to watch old home movies of when your dog was a puppy. Pull out photos of your cat in silly feline poses. Gather as a family and talk about different memories of the pet. Celebrate the animal’s birthday as an annual event.
4. Give Back to the World
One thing that makes you feel better is giving back to the world and making it a better place. If there is any creature that does this every day, it is a dog. Adopt you dog’s attitude of making the world happier and find a way to volunteer. Perhaps you could help at a local animal shelter once a week. If being around other animals is too much for you right now, there are any number of charities in need of volunteers. Choose one you’re passionate about and help them out.
5. Share Memories with Others
Share memories on social media about funny stories or happy memories of your pet and include a photo. It helps to know that family and friends remember your pets and miss them as well. Ask others to share their favorite memories with you. You may be reminded of stories about your pet you forgot, or others may point out their funny habits and traits and bring better times to mind.
6. Let Guilt Go
Perhaps your pet suffered at the end and you had to make the decision to euthanize them. This is a difficult decision for anyone. Many owners wonder if they made the right choice and if it was really the pet’s time to go. The truth is that you loved your fur baby and you made the best decision possible based on the facts you had and the condition your pet was in. Not allowing a pet to suffer is the humane thing to do, so forgive yourself.
7. Change Routines
When you own a pet, days involve a number of routines centered around the care and comfort of the animal. Perhaps you got up first thing and took your dog for a walk, or your cat waited at her food dish to be fed the minute you got out of the shower. Walking past that empty food bowl or the leash hanging from a hook on the wall serves as a reminder of the lost pet. Put these items out of sight and find new routines to keep you busy and focused on other things.
8. Reach Out to Others
Only someone who has lost a pet understands the pain and heartache over losing a beloved furry friend. Reach out to others who’ve recently lost their animal companions and ask for advice or just cry on one another’s shoulders. You may just form a strong new human friendship through the process and help someone else at the same time they help you through a difficult time.
9. Seek Counseling
If months have passed and you’ve not moved through any of the stages of grief, seek counseling from a professional. There is no shame in going to a professional for help in dealing with loss. If one of your parents passed away and you had trouble accepting it, you’d likely seek group or private therapy to deal with the loss. Losing a pet creates the same emotions as losing a relative. While the intensity might not be comparable, the emotions and ways to cope with them remain the same.
10. Get a New Pet
When you are ready, adopt a new pet. Good timing on this depends on you, but know that there are many pets in shelters desperate for someone to love them. While the new pet won’t take the place of the old pet, it will give you something to focus on and a reason to create new routines.
Overcoming the Loss
Give yourself the time and self-care needed to heal emotionally. While you might never completely get over losing a pet you loved, time does ease the pain and allow you to move on. Pets love us back, often unconditionally. That love would want you to be happy and to have a full and rewarding life.
Emily is an avid animal lover and pet and wildlife conservation blogger. She has also written for Continental Kennel Club and is a contributor to PetsBlogs. To read more of her articles, check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.