The loss of a pet is a profound moment. We have a connection with our pet that transcends the bonds we have with other people. There is an element of purity and unconditional love in these relationships that occurs nowhere else in our lives.
When a pet dies, it feels as though part of us dies to. They have been a part of our lives every day for so long. It’s hard to imagine what life is going to be like without them.
Complicating things is the reality that many people cannot understand the gravity of the moment. People who don’t make an emotional connection with animals may say things like “It’s just and animal” or “just get another pet,” because they can’t relate to what you’re going through.
Here are a few tips to help you heal…
1. Surrender to the Grieving Process
You may find yourself feeling confused, hurt, overwhelmed, or even disoriented. You also may notice yourself becoming angry and exhausted, both physically and emotionally.
Don’t worry… everything you are feeling is normal. You are in the midst of a trauma. Give yourself permission to grieve.
One of our clients shared that she missed 3 days of work when her dog died. She didn’t expect that the loss would affect her so deeply and found herself unable to get out of bed in the morning. She felt guilty for missing work, and she felt judged by her co-workers who said, “It’s just a dog… why are you missing work?” Not only did she have to deal with the grief of losing her dog, she beat herself up for grieving on top of it.
This is just one of many similar stories from clients over the years. If you deny yourself the perfectly natural emotion of grieving, you can elevate stress and physical fatigue and even suppress your own ability to heal. Acknowledge your grief and express it the way that works best for you. One process that you may find beneficial is to journal about what you’re going through or to simply write down all of the feelings you are experiencing during the grieving process.
Although grief seems like a lonely process, you don’t have to go through it alone. Reach out to friends and family members for support. There are also many other forms of support you may not have thought of, including pet-bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines, and local or online pet-bereavement groups. Your local Humane Society may offer a pet-loss support group or be able to refer you to one.
2. Create a Ceremony to Honor Your Pet
Ceremonies or rituals are a great way to mark significant occasions of sadness or celebration. It can be very therapeutic to ritualize your pet’s death through a ceremony or memorial service.
Some people like to perform a private ritual or ceremony for their pet, and some people prefer to share the experience with friends or family. For example, after one family’s dog died, they painted and decorated a selection or rocks and created a sacred space in their garden where they had a ceremony and placed the rocks.
Many pet owners have shared with us that providing a dignified burial or cremation for their pet allows them to both express their love for their pet and to get closure.
3. Memorialize Your Pet
Creating a memorial or tribute can be great tool in the healing process.
Our favorite way to memorialize a pet is to get a biodegradable urn that is specifically designed to turn your pet’s ashes into a tree.
Planting a tree like this will allow you to create a lasting memorial that will literally live on for years to come.
One of our friends, Jill Lublin did this for her cat, Luna, and shared, “It helps me to know she lives on – not only in my heart but also creating more life. The urn is great for closure, great for the planet and helps my sweet Luna live on forever!”
What tips or words of encouragement do you have for other people who have lost a pet?
Please share your insights with other pet owners by commenting on this post!