The death of a pet can be a painful and gut-wrenching experience for many people. When a beloved pet dies, it’s hard to imagine ever finding this type of unconditional love in another. It’s not surprising to hear that many people consider their pets an irreplaceable part of their families and households.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Is It OK to Get a New Pet After Your Pet Died?
- Signs You Might Be Ready for a New Pet
- Signs You Might Not Be Ready for a New Pet After Losing One
What happens then when your pet dies? Is it wrong to consider getting another one after losing your faithful furry friend? And, how long should you wait before getting another one?
Is It OK to Get a New Pet After Your Pet Died?
There’s no right or wrong time for getting a new dog or another pet after losing one. The decision to get another pet is a strictly personal one. Consider when the right time is for you when making your decision.
When saying goodbye to a pet, it can be challenging to know how you’ll react to their loss for several weeks after they’ve died. You’ll likely go through a period of mourning for your pet who died. It may take time to work through the different grief stages and move on from this type of loss.
Signs You Might Be Ready for a New Pet
When is it the right time to get a new pet after losing one? Coping with a pet loss can be challenging for anyone at any age. You may think that it gets easier to handle the older one gets, but the opposite can also be true. Whereas a young child may mourn the loss of their pet one moment, they can be ready to accept a new one five minutes later.
With an older person or senior, pets tend to take on the role of faithful friend and companion. Losing a pet later on in life can be an even more traumatic experience than losing one when still a child. Here are some signs you might be ready for a new pet:
1. You’ve given yourself time to mourn your loss
As with any other type of loss, the death of a pet can leave you with a shattered heart. Grief is always a natural and normal response to loss. And no matter what anyone thinks, losing a pet can have a lasting and profound effect on you and other members of your household.
Give yourself time to process your pet’s death and to feel their absence in the coming days and weeks. You’ll likely experience much of the same types of feelings and emotions that are typical when someone close to you dies. In time, these feelings of profound sadness will begin to lift, and you’ll be better able to cope with your grief.
2. You’ve accepted your pet’s loss
After the death of your pet, you can expect to feel the effects of their absence as time passes. Whether you lived alone with your pet, have other members in your household, or other pets, the loss of a pet can leave a painful void in your heart and home.
Feelings of guilt and shame are a normal part of the grieving process as you try to make sense of your pet’s death. It may take you several days, weeks, or months to come to terms with their death.
3. You’ve healed from your pain
As you heal from loss, take some time to work on your grief. Allow yourself to release any pent-up emotions. If you have children or other members in your household, include them in the process of healing. Consider reading children’s books about death with them to help you in talking to kids about death.
Healing from the pain of your loss doesn’t mean you’re no longer sad that your pet died or that you don’t miss them. Healing is a transformative event where you can go from pain and suffering to transforming into being whole again.
4. You can think of your pet in terms of loving memories
When thinking about your pet no longer causes you to break down in tears, it can be a sign that healing is taking place. When you’re grieving the loss of a pet, you can expect to go through much of the same stages of grief for any other type of loss.
When completing the healing process, some of your pet’s memories that brought you pain and sorrow can become joyful remembrances of all the good times shared.
5. You’re ready to build a new relationship
Getting a new pet doesn’t mean you’re replacing the old. Like people, pets are irreplaceable. You don’t just go out and get a new dog or pet to replace the one that died. A new pet requires you to offer your time, attention, and love in building a relationship with them.
Over time, you’ll get to know your pet’s personality and your bond will grow stronger. Your new pet may even take on a new role in your life. It’ll help fill the void left in your heart from the death of your beloved pet, but you shouldn’t see them as a replacement or temporary fix to your broken heart. Give them the love and nurturing that they deserve so that they grow to love and trust you as they adjust to their new forever home.
Signs You Might Not Be Ready for a New Pet After Losing One
Searching for a new pet right away after the death of your pet is not always the best course to take when you’re still in the early stages of grieving. When you live alone, your pet’s loss can exacerbate your grief and feelings of loneliness, making you think you’re ready for another. While there isn’t a specific waiting period for getting another pet, there are some signs to consider that may tell you that you might not be ready for a new one just yet.
1. You haven’t processed your grief
After the death of a pet, it can take time to heal from your loss. Everyone grieves differently. Some people process their grief more rapidly than others. Depending on what caused your pet’s death, it may take you longer than others to realize the full effects of your loss.
For pets who suffered from a long illness before dying, their extended dying process may have given you the time needed to work through your grief. The anticipation of death and the suffering that follows may have given you a jump start in coming to terms with your loss. You may not be ready for another pet if you haven’t allowed yourself the time to process your loss.
2. You resent your new pet
Grief can sneak up on you when least expected. One day you may be feeling just fine and ready for that new pet you brought home from the shelter. Suddenly, unbearable suffering may strike you, leaving you hurt, confused, and resentful toward your new pet.
You don’t need to be fully healed from your pain and suffering when considering a new pet. However, be mindful of how unexpected grief reactions can shift your mood and thoughts in an instant. If you’ve already adopted a new pet and feel resentful toward it, ask a friend or relative to help you care for it until you start to feel better.
3. You can’t stop comparing other pets to yours
Wanting to compare a potential new pet to your pet that died is a normal part of the grieving process. The memories of your pet may still evoke powerful emotions whenever you’re around other dogs or animals.
A new pet will not help you get over the old one’s loss regardless of how cute or sweet they are. Don’t get a new pet with the expectation that they’ll resemble the one who died even if they’re the spitting image of each other. Every animal has a personality of its own. When you start comparing one to the other, you can rest assured that you’ll be disappointed when they don’t live up to your standard.
4. You feel sorrow when thinking of your pet that died
A good way to determine if you’re ready to move forward with a new pet is to gauge how you feel when you think of your pet that died. When thinking of them, do you feel sad and heartbroken? Or, do thoughts of your pet bring forth joyful memories?
If you still feel strong emotions associated with your pet’s death, you may not be ready for a new one. Give yourself more time for healing and revisit the way you feel in a few weeks.
5. You can’t see yourself getting attached to a new pet
When you’re grieving, it’s easy to think only in black and white. You may say to yourself that you’ll never get another pet or that you can’t see yourself ever falling in love with another dog or cat again. This type of thinking may only help you in temporarily coping with your grief.
You may think that by thinking this way, you’re honoring your pet’s life by deeming them irreplaceable. In reality, you may just not be ready to get another pet right now, which is a way to deflect making an immediate decision. To overcome these feelings, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter a few days each month. One day you may find your heart opening up to another pet once again.
Opening Your Heart to a New Pet
When the time is right, you’ll know when to open your heart and home to a new pet. When you do find the right pet for you, in time, your bond will strengthen. Soon enough, your new pet will fill your heart with joy and happiness.
If you're looking for more on pet loss, read our guides on pet memorial jewelry and pet loss support groups.