People cope in different ways when faced with the loss of a beloved pet and somehow this loss is deeper and harder to overcome than the loss of a relative or a person. People should not feel guilty about this. It is normal and natural says a study conducted by the Department of Psychology in University of Central Lancashire.
The study shows that because of the lack of any ritual or process to overcome our grief for a pet – it somehow encourages for the pain to sit longer and sip deeper into our emotions. Here are a few steps that can help ease you through this time of grief.
Step#1. It is OK to grieve
People can be so insensitive and say “it’s just a dog” or “it’s just a cat”. Maybe because we still have a hangover from previous centuries where the dog was a tool and not a family or from a time when the cat was the pest-control expert and not a companion.
In our time, our pets offer consolation and 100% loyalty void of any duplicity. This is a rare gem that we cherish and yet do not see it with people. We always find something unlikeable or we are always playing a guessing game of “do they like me or do they like me not”. Our pets offer us an unwavering 100% loyalty and admiration as if we are the kings of the world. We may neglect them and not give them a second of our thought in a day and yet they still love us.
Losing this type of companionship is something that any person should grieve. So tell yourself: It’s ok to be sad over the loss of a caring and loving friend.
Step#2. It is OK to be angry
Whenever there is death then there are regrets over unsaid things, unmet promises and anger over the finiteness of life and fickleness of fate. It is OK to feel other emotions other than grief. Encouraging yourself to face the reality of this myriad of emotions will help you understand and learn three important words: Forgive. Let go.
Step#3. Remember the Good Times
You may think you are a bad pet-owner for not spending more time with your best buddy but know what? Those times you’ve spent with your pet was the highlight of their life. Just like what we do with persons – we must do the same for our pets, we should remember them during the good times.
Step#4. Be Gentle With Yourself
We may have high standards of how a pet-owner should treat a pet and, in this aspect, learn to be gentle to yourself. Pet-ownership is the same as parenting: you can never be perfect. We love to hold ourselves to that impossible standard and set ourselves up for failure but guess what our pets loved us nonetheless. So be gentle to yourself and stop asking if you were a bad pet-owner or whether your pet lived a good life. They did. Say to yourself: I was not perfect, I did OK and I loved you too buddy.
Step#5. Memorialize your Pet
Psychologists say the best way to deal with a loss is to do something about those emotions. Other teachings would say – transfer those energies into something positive. Here are some tips from other pet-owners who have experienced the loss of a pet:
- Cry – It is OK to cry and stop being such a tough person.
- Talk about it – Tell your friends and family about your pet’s death and that you feel such a loss.
- Do something special for your pet like a tribute video, a photo collage, frame his or her photo, write about it.
Step#6. Stop the guilt. Contribute and get involved.
When you get this feeling like you have not done enough, do something. Stop the guilt and get involved. Some pet owners say they were not able to get over the feeling of not having done enough so they get involved in some ways. Some pet owners volunteer at local animal shelters while others donate or join organizations promoting animal welfare.
Step 7. The pain will ease. This too shall pass but the memories will never be forgotten
One day all of this pain will ease. Some people cope faster and others take a little bit longer but one thing is for sure – this too shall pass. This does not mean that your best buddy is forgotten – what will be left behind will be a kind of soft sadness and a warmth of memories as you remember your pet.
Helping Kids Cope
Kids treat our pets like family. They may have grown and gotten used to having a pet in the house. You can help them cope by allowing them to grieve and showing them that it is ok to be sad. Hold their hands as they pass through this time. Listen to them as they share how they feel or simply give them a hug if they do not want to talk about it.
Kids need to know that it is OK to feel how they are feeling. They may have questions. What To Expect.com shares some questions to expect and how to answer them.
Do not make the mistake of introducing a pet to the family right after the passing of a beloved pet. At one time, a friend told me she felt that the “newcomer” was somehow treated like a “usurper” in place of their old best bud. Do a temp check when thinking of getting a new pet for the family.
Some people feel that having another pet will expose them to this kind of loss or that they will not be able to survive another loss. You are braver than you think. All life on earth is temporary and we can only do the best that we can with the little time that we have. It goes to say the same with our pet’s lives. A dog’s 7 years of life is 1 year to ours but this will not stop us from loving.
This is the essence of life. Celebrate the joy, the pain, the love. This is dedicated to you – the brave ones who have dared to love.