For many of us, a dog or cat is not “just a pet.” They’re members of the family who can add joy to your life by keeping you active, comforting you in times of need and even provide a sense of purpose in life. So, after the loss of a pet, the feelings can be terribly devastating.
Grieving is a unique experience for everyone. It’s difficult to say how long you will be sad or what events could trigger a painful wave of emotion. It is important to know, however, that feelings of shock, sadness or loneliness are all normal reactions, and the grieving process is gradual. It can’t be forced or rushed.
There are healthy ways to cope with death and pain. These five suggestions may assist in comforting you and helping you move forward.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
Nobody has the right to tell you to “move on” or “get over it” when you’re not ready. You are entitled to your own feelings without judgement. Studies have shown that bottling up your emotions can lead to physical stress on your body, including high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. Allow yourself to release your anger, sadness and frustration. It’s also okay to find moments of joy when you can.
Reach Out to Others Who Have Lost a Pet
Anyone who has grieved over the loss of a pet can empathize with you. Since they understand the process of healing, they may even have their own personal tips that helped them cope. You can reach out to family members, friends or even pet-loss hotlines and online support groups.
Memorialize Your Pet
A commemoration of your pet could provide the type of closure you need. There are numerous creative ways to eulogize your pet, celebrate their life and leave a legacy after their passing. You can write an obituary highlighting the most cherished memories you both shared; create a collage, photo album or movie filled with all of your best selfies and adventures; tribute an urn, plaque or statue to encourage fond thoughts; or donate a charitable contribution in their name and pay it forward, animal style.
Spend Time With Your Pets or Others’ Pets
Pets can also experience loss when their roommate passes or stress when they see their owner grieving. It is important that you maintain their daily routines and spend more time playing with them and giving them affection. Pets in general can be a great comfort during sad times. When you’re ready, plan an activity with your friend and her or his dog or visit your local animal shelter. They’ll appreciate the love, too.
Take Care of Yourself
Sadness can drain your energy and leave you mentally and physically exhausted, so take care of yourself by looking after your physical and emotional needs. Maintain a healthy diet, get a good night sleep and exercise regularly to help boost your mood. If your grief is persistent and interferes with your daily life activities, you may need to seek professional help. Contact your doctor or a mental health professional to evaluate for depression.
Additional Resources on Coping with Pet Loss: Grieving the Loss of a Pet After Euthanasia