How can you survive grief?
What to do when you lose your pet…
(Graciously provided by Santé animale.ca – Website off)
The life expectancy of our pets is much shorter than the average human life span. This being the case, the death of your pet is an eventuality that you should be prepared to face.
No one knows when this fateful moment will arrive for their pet, or whether a sudden accident, a chronic illness, or old age will be its cause. Sometimes, it is just time for our pet to leave us. Understanding your feelings is an important step in the healing and adaptation process.
It is normal to experience very strong emotions in the period surrounding the death of your animal. It could feel like the loss of your pet is simply unreal. Experts have recognized this feeling of denial as a normal part of the grieving process. It is hard to get used to the idea that your four-legged friend will never again meow for a treat or wag their tail at the thought of going for a walk in the park. Because we form such strong emotional bonds with our pets, they tend to play a major role in our daily routines. Often, it is the disruption of these routines that helps us to realize and begin to accept that our pet is no longer with us.
Some people like to collect souvenirs that will remind them of their pet. This could take the form of an album containing your favourite photos of your pet, their paw prints, and a tuft of their fur, or of a box containing other objects that remind you of your pet. Celebrating the happy times you had together is a very healthy way to survive this difficult period. Some people organize a service commemorating their pet, keep their pet’s ashes in an urn on the mantelpiece, or make a film containing footage of happy moments spent in the company of their pet. If you have your pet buried, visiting the cemetery is a good way to evoke memories of your pet and help bring this difficult chapter of your life to a close. Try to focus on celebrating all the happy hours you spent with your pet, and how your pet enriched your life! These happy memories will help you to overcome your grief and remember your pet in an affectionate way after he or she has left your life forever.
Generally, people come to terms with the grief they feel at loss of their pet effectively, without experiencing any other emotions as a result. Your family, your friends, and people you know who also have pets can act as a source of support for you, and help you overcome your grief. Even just talking to your best friend about your pet can make a big difference!
Sometimes, you might feel varying degrees of anger or guilt. This might seem strange, but it is a normal part of the range of emotions that you might feel (or not) when you have lost a companion who was dear to you. You might feel guilty because you had your pet euthanized, or because you think that, if you had sought medical attention for your pet sooner, his or her life might have been prolonged. This is a normal feeling. However, it is important to realize that you cannot go back in time, and to remember that the decisions you took were made in the best interests of your pet. Financial constraints can often contribute to this feeling of guilt. Maybe you were not able to afford a certain procedure for your pet, and in retrospect it seems like it could have made all the difference. Remember that financial problems sometimes mean that you have no choice but to deprive your family of certain things. What is more, perhaps there was little or no hope for improvement in your pet’s health, and euthanasia was the best way to prevent your pet from suffering. Concentrate on the reasons you made the decisions you did. Do not reconsider decisions taken before the death of your pet while you are grieving for him or her. Even if your change in perspective seems to be shedding a new light on the steps you took, always remember that you did the best you could!
It is also normal to feel anger, but you should put this feeling in context. Remember that these kinds of emotions do not last forever. If you feel an excessive amount of anger towards yourself, a member of your family, someone who hurt your pet, or the veterinary team that handled your pet’s case, you might want to seek the help of a professional in order to deal with these feelings. It might feel like you have to find someone or something to blame for what happened. Asking “what if” questions might also cause you to re-evaluate what happened. Your anger will diminish as your grief fades. In the long term, any problems caused by feelings of sadness will dissipate, along with the other strong emotions you feel as a result of the loss of your pet. Keep in mind that your veterinary team would happy to help you understand your grief and to answer any questions you may have following the death of your pet.
IT IS NORMAL TO FEEL GRIEF AT THE LOSS OF YOUR PET. You should not be afraid to cry, to be sad, or to feel any of the strong emotions arising within you. People have very different ways of dealing with emotions and living with grief. Give yourself time to deal with your grief in your own way and within your own time frame. The length and intensity of the grief that you experience in no way reflects the feelings you had for your pet. Rather, it is simply a reflection of the way in which you deal with grief and with your emotions. The way in which you deal with your grief can also be influenced by other events that occur in your life at the same time. If your pet happens to die at the same time as you lose your job, your marriage falls apart, a close friend dies, or any other stressful event occurs, the stress that you feel as a result will affect the way that you grieve. Losing a pet can be especially difficult for people who live alone. If grief or other emotions are preventing you from fulfilling your normal roles as a parent, care-giver, friend, worker, etc., it might be time to seek professional help. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Taking this step could provide you with the support you need in order to put your thoughts and feelings into context. Many municipalities have help lines that people who are suffering from grief can call, or support groups that can help you make it through this difficult transition. If you need help, choose the type of support that best suits YOUR situation. Your veterinarian can also refer you, confidentially, to specialists who can help you.
To help you in your time of grief…
Ten tips to help you to grieve for your pet: Pet Loss. In fond memory of those we have lost: Memoriam