How to Deal with the Loss of a Pet

“Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What’s one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully.” ~ Jon Katz

Dealing with the loss of a pet is one of the saddest things that anyone can go through. Both the loss itself and losing an animal companion to whom you had grown so close are difficult to process, for anyone at any stage in life. We lost one of our dogs a year ago, today I still cherish the memories I have of her and hold space for her in my heart.

Mana wasn’t sick or unhealthy, unfortunately her death was unexpected because she ended up eating a poisoned rat on the farm. The death of a pet can be just as devastating as the loss of a human family member. Just because our pets aren’t people, doesn’t mean that they don’t play an important role in our lives. They’re loyal friends and companions, and when they die, we feel a terrible sense of loss and grief.

Dealing with the loss of a pet

“Sometimes losing a pet is more painful than losing a human because in the case of the pet, you were not pretending to love it.” ~ Amy Sedaris

When a pet dies, it can be hard to know how to move forward. It can feel like there’s no getting over the loss, and it’s true that a pet’s death is a real loss ~ one that you’ll still grieve after years have passed. But by taking care of yourself, and giving yourself permission to grieve your pet, you can begin the process of healing.

Set up healthy routines

After your pet has died, your daily routine will have changed. For example, you may have walked your dog every day after work or taken your cat for frequent vet visits; these things are now over. In order to avoid feeling worse about the loss of your pet and the change in routine, focus on making some new healthy habits that will help you feel better overall. This could mean working out more frequently or following a new recipe—anything that forces you to get back into a regular routine without forcing you to think about what used to be.

Be gentle with yourself and take your time

Don’t try to go back to work right away or fill all of your free time with activities just because you don’t want to sit around thinking about your loss. Even if you need more time than others think is appropriate, take it. People may say it was “just a dog” or “just a cat” they may not understand the bond you shared with your pet nor will they be able to account for the bond you shared with them.

It’s important during this time that you give yourself room to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be “okay” right away—that’s going to take some time, and that’s okay!

Make a memorial for your pet

Creating a memorial for your pet is one way to help you heal emotionally and spiritually. You can make something simple like a photo plaque or decorated picture frame, or you can choose to make something more elaborate like an actual grave site or a memorial garden.

We dug out a grave for Mana, wrapped her in the rugs she loved and buried her with tears streaming down our faces, we planted fruit trees over her to remind us of her with every fruit that we get. We have a picture of Mana on a mug that we use for our tea, needless to say it’s one of our favourites. Not only will making the memorial help you heal, but it will serve as a lasting tribute to your pet and give you something tangible to hold on to.

Create art

Channel your grief into creativity. Creating art is not only therapeutic, you may find yourself drawn toward certain colors, images, textures and patterns that represent the love you have for your pet and the joy he brought into your life. Paintings, sculptures and other pieces of artwork aren’t just beautiful; they allow you to immortalize your pet in a form that’s symbolic of its spirit.

Volunteer at an animal shelter

Volunteering at an animal shelter gives you time to re-accustom yourself to caring for animals, even though you’re doing so in a non-permanent capacity. It will give you a chance to help animals in need while providing you with a sense of purpose, it’s an opportunity to focus on something positive and give back to animals in need.

Volunteering at an animal shelter will also allow you to have some contact with animals without having any responsibilities towards them, which can be helpful if you’re not ready for that yet. You will also have the opportunity to meet new people who share your love for animals.

For those on the verge of loosing their pets, this video will help ~

Rethinking the way we say goodbye to our Pets

Living with your loss

I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives, and I am quite Satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time? ~ Sir Walter Scott

Has your pet really left you? There are so many ways that my dog lives on in me, her every loving nature, care that she bestowed on our kids and her unconditional love. There are so many memories that I have, there’s so much that I have learnt and experienced because of here. Our lives have been permanently altered by her and there is always going to be a place in my heart for her spirit.

I know that everyone who’s ever had a pet feels the same sadness when saying goodbye, and it doesn’t matter how long you got to spend with your furry friend. Many of us can relate to the story of our pets excitedly greeting us, dancing at food time, and just putting a smile on your face when you’re down. Yes, we can recover from the loss of a pet, but they will always be missed.

I am not gone, I’m just gone from your sight. In the blink of an eye I’ll see you again. When the time is just right. Wipe the tears from your eyes and watch for the signs that I send to remind you that love never dies. ~ Jack McAfghan

Image Sources:

Rainbow Bridge by Ludwig Van Bacon

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