How To Cope With The Death Of A Beloved Pet
If you have ever lost a pet before, you will know that the grief that hits you is brutal. Although those who have never had pets might say, ‘But it’s just an animal, it isn’t the same…’ We animal lovers know that losing a beloved pet is like losing a member of the family. When you get a pet you know that they will not live as long as a human would, but despite this knowledge, the cold, hard truth of this fact still hits you like a tonne of bricks every time.
If you have recently lost a pet and are at a loss as to how to cope, in this blog you will find helpful tips on how to support yourself through the grieving process. Losing our pets will never be easy, but with some guidance, you might be able to navigate the journey ahead a little more easily.
Talking it over
One of the most painful things in the few days following your pet’s death is telling others that it has happened. Each time you go to say the words, you might find yourself welling up and experiencing the grief all over again. Although it can be painful, speaking about your pet’s death, especially with close friends and family, can help your grieving process. Verbalising your emotions, such as saying, ‘I just feel so empty,’ or, ‘I keep expecting to come home and find him sitting there as he always did, it’s so hard,’ is an important part of relieving all the bottled up emotions you have right now.
One important part of the talking process is to share these feelings with somebody you know will understand. Fellow pet owners will often understand this feeling much better than those who haven’t had pets before. Make sure you express these feelings where you feel safe to do so.
Your pet’s belongings
The first few days after your pet has passed away, your house might feel entirely different. Empty, even. The absence of hearing their paws patter on the floor or the squeak from a cage can be overwhelming. Plus, seeing your pet’s belongings around the house might be a constant reminder that they are not there. For this reason it is important to sort through your pet’s belongings.
The first thing you should do is to decide what you would like to give away, and what you would like to keep. Your pet likely has lots of paraphernalia – in fact, there will be much more of it than you imagine – and some of it could be helpful to donate to an animal shelter or charity shop for other pets who still need them. When you have decided what you would like to donate, wash the items on a hot wash, dry them, and donate them straight away. The longer you leave them sitting in your home, the harder it will become to let them go eventually.
Decide what you would like to keep, too; this might be your pet’s collar, their bowl, or another small item that will remind you of them forever. Although cleaning out the house and donating things is a healthy course of action that helps shelter animals have a good life, it is important to hold onto a few precious items too.
Your wellbeing after your pet has died
After your pet has died, you might feel a gnawing absence that is hard to shake. Even if you have a very full life with wonderful family and friends, your pet’s death is likely to make you feel joyless for a little while. In order to take care of your own wellbeing in the days and weeks that follow, it is crucial to keep busy and engage in some of your similar routines that you would have done with your pet.
For example, if your dog has recently passed, going for a walk in your usual spots semi-regularly might help you feel more at ease. Although this could also give you pangs of grief as you walk the same route you always did, you might also imagine that they are walking there beside you and feel a sense of calm wash over you.
In addition to following your usual routines, you should take care of your wellbeing in other ways, too. This could be by taking extra good care of yourself now that you have a little more free time, such as meditating, taking long, hot baths or spending extra play time with your children. All these activities will soothe your soul, even if it doesn’t feel like it right at that moment.
Remembering in your own way
Just like when a person dies, when your pet passes away, you might wish to mark this with a piece of memorabilia. Most veterinary surgeries offer pet cremation after they have passed away, and will provide you with a case of their ashes to do what you please with.
On one hand, you could keep your pet’s ashes at home. Many online stores stock cremation urns for pets that are both decorative and effective in storing your pet’s ashes on a mantelpiece or shelf of your choosing. Alternatively, you could scatter your pet’s ashes (within local regulations) in their favorite place, on one of your regular walk routes, or in your garden. This is a lovely way to commemorate a special part of your life that you will always hold dear.
Additionally, particularly if you have children who are also grieving for their beloved pet, you could have a photo album made up of your favourite memories with them. This could be stored in your home and flipped through often, while you reminisce about all the good times you shared with such a great pet. This will help the whole family keep the happy memories alive while saying goodbye too.
Lastly, many families like to create something permanent in remembrance of their pet. This could be planting a tree in the garden where they used to lounge in the sun; watching this tree grow over time will always remind you of that special pet.
Putting your time to good use
If you are experiencing feelings of loneliness and emptiness in your home after your pet has passed on, you might consider adopting or fostering another pet. There is no correct amount of time between when your former pet passes away, and when a new one enters your life. Some people take years to open their hearts and homes to another furry friend, while others do so almost immediately. Whatever is right for you, don’t allow others to judge your decision.
Why is adopting or fostering another pet helpful? Firstly, you’ll be as busy as ever before! Fostering a pet is a very busy experience; you will be settling them into domestic life, helping them to come out of their shell, and introducing them to all new sights, smells and experiences. This can be overwhelming and challenging, but watching a little soul open up into their new life is a priceless experience. Although nothing will ever replace your original pet, a new pet in your life can fill the hole in your heart and your home that was left behind.
Although the death of your pet can be overwhelmingly difficult, there will come a time when you are able to look back on your memories with them and feel nothing but happiness. This takes time and work to reach; in the meantime, use this guide to help you move through the grieving process.