Coping with the Death of a Pet
For many of us, our pets are a friend, companion and part of the family. They are a source of comfort, happiness and unconditional love, and are a significant and often constant part of our lives for many years. It is therefore completely understandable that we may feel sadness when our pets pass away, with the grief experienced over the death of a pet in no way silly or sentimental.
Unfortunately, the death of a pet is something that all pet owners must deal with at some point. We at Groomers have therefore created this post to offer some guidance for such a difficult occasion.
The Grieving Process
Grief can be complicated. The age of your pet, the nature of their death, and your own personal disposition to such issues can affect how you cope. In addition, if you lived alone with your pet, or if you owned a working dog or guide dog, your grief is likely to be more pronounced.
There is no right way to deal with the death of a pet, but there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. Initially you may feel shock, anger, sorrow, confusion, loneliness, and even suffer from insomnia or have difficulty focusing at work. If you do experience such feelings, you should never feel ashamed of them. The key is to accept and embrace the emotions you feel.
The process of grieving and moving on from the loss of a beloved pet will differ for everyone. Stages of grief are typical, where you move through the process experiencing denial, anger, guilt, depression and finally acceptance. For others, grief is cyclical – feelings of sorrow come in waves, which become less prolonged and difficult with time.
Difficulties that May Occur
While other pet owners will probably understand your pain, some people do not fully comprehend the pet/owner bond. This does not mean your feelings are wrong, but it does mean some people may find a strong reaction to the death of a pet confusing. It is important in this situation not to argue with people over the matter, and do not strive too hard to justify your feelings. Try seeking alternative support from people with similar experiences to your own.
After the death of a pet, you may also find that surviving animals become depressed. They may show this by being clingy, lethargic, or refusing to eat or drink. Even if the two pets were not particularly close, the change in circumstances and emotional stress may confuse or concern. It can be difficult to cope with stressed or depressed pets, especially when you are dealing with similar emotions yourself. The key with this is to be patient. Give remaining pets lots of TLC and keep to your regular routine. If your pet continues to demonstrate behaviour that concerns you after a week or two, a visit to the vet may help put your mind at rest.
Coping with the death of a pet is a difficult experience for us all, but it is important to remember that you cannot rush emotions. Some people may feel better in a week or two, for others it may take months. Remember though, it is especially important to look after yourself – emotional stress can deplete energy and even affect the immune system.