We take for granted that death is a natural part of life and something we know we must face when we care for a pet. But nothing quite prepares us for when that time comes. The loss can be devastating and you may wonder how you can move through this tremendous hurt. 

There is hope in recovering from the loss of a pet and, with time and gentleness, you can heal. It’s important, however, to be true to yourself. The team at Dickinson Animal Hospital and Pet Wellness Center has some recommendations to help you cope with this time of mourning.

Mourning the Loss of a Pet

Studies on grief and loss have shown that losing a pet can be the equivalent of losing a human loved one, and in some cases the experience can actually be more impactful. There is a distinct bond that is shared between humans and animals that cannot be replicated, some of which relies on trust, unconditional love, and responsibility for their care

Symptoms of grief include crying, loss of appetite, irritability, insomnia, and depression. These can develop into more significant symptoms that disrupt normal life. This is when it can be beneficial to seek counseling or grief support to deal with harmful or serious symptoms.

There is no shame in getting help for the loss of a beloved pet. It is vital to care for yourself, first and foremost.

5 Ways to Better Cope with Your Grief After Your Pet Passes

If you are experiencing the full effects of losing your four-legged friend, there are some things you can do to lift your spirits and help you along the way. Know that, with any loss, gentleness, self-compassion, and time are essential components of healing.

  1. Surround yourself with support. Even if the support is simply someone to sit with you while you are grieving, it’s important to have people who care. Most of us have experienced this loss with our own pet companions and can understand how you are feeling. Support can also come from online pet loss support groups, a spiritual counselor, therapist, or other professional.
  2. Focus on the basics. During this period of mourning, give yourself a break by eliminating excess obligations and activities. Instead, shift your focus to daily self-care habits, from showering and eating to napping and exercise. This time and attention to your own mind and body can go a long way in helping you cope with the loss.
  3. Set aside sad times. It’s easy to get sucked into the tidal wave of depression. Try setting aside 30 minutes to just grieve as hard as you want. Feel all of the feelings, from anger to guilt to remorse and sadness. Then when the timer goes off, get up and do something physical or positive.
  4. Focus on the great memories. It’s important to remember that your pet had a wonderful life filled with love and happiness. Rejoice in how much joy you felt with them and remember all of the fun times in their very good life.
  5. Memorialize your pet. A parting memorial service or remembrance activity, such as creating a scrapbook or memorial display, can be cathartic. This is something that can be done alone or with family and friends. Whether you choose to have a formal memorial ceremony or something as personal as wearing your pet’s ashes in a pendant or planting a garden in their honor, it is meaningful.

If you have lost a special friend, our hearts go out to you. If we can be of any assistance to you during this time of grief, please do not hesitate to contact us.