Euthanizing a pet is a painful decision for any pet owner to have to make. After deciding to put down a beloved furry family member, it is natural and normal to feel sorrow. You can expect many other feelings associated with grief to come and go in the days and weeks following your pet’s death.
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Grief affects everyone differently, and there’s no way to gauge how your pet’s death will affect you. Although you may have researched and exhausted all other options for saving your pet’s life and concluded that euthanasia is the best option, unfortunately, this doesn’t help ease the pain of knowing you have to put your pet down.
Tips for Dealing With Euthanasia Decision
Grieving the loss of a pet after euthanasia can be heart-wrenching. At times you’ll find yourself feeling such profound grief that you don’t know how to come up from underneath the pain. Coping with a pet loss for some people can be the same as dealing with any other type of significant loss. This type of loss can lead to grief-related symptoms such as feeling chronic sadness and depression.
After the death of a pet, there’s hope that your heart will heal from the pain of seeing your pet put down. The following tips may help you as you say goodbye to your pet.
1. Enhance your pet’s final days
Seeing your pet suffer as their health declines can be painful and unbearable. Deciding to put them down can feel like a betrayal to your loyal companion. There are ways to make both you and your pet feel better, leading to its appointment with the vet.
Consider enhancing your pet’s last days in the following ways:
- Creating a comfortable space for your pet to rest
- Treating your pet to special home-cooked meals
- Spending additional quality time with your pet
- Giving your pet extra hugs and cuddles
- Telling your pet how much they mean to you
2. Let others know your plans
Letting others know your plans to put your pet to sleep will allow them to come to say their final goodbyes. It also alerts your support system that you will need some comfort in the days following.
When telling children in your household, plan a family meeting to share the news. Explain why the decision is being made and how the euthanasia process works. You can keep things simple and straightforward. Ask if anyone would like to be present during the procedure but warn them of how emotionally difficult that may be to watch.
3. Allow yourself to grieve
Grief isn’t reserved just for when a human dies. Your pet is also a part of you and your family.
You can expect to feel pain when the time comes to put them to sleep. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for that day so that your emotions don’t catch you off guard.
4. Say goodbye
Saying your last goodbyes to your pet can be challenging to deal with. Sometimes the anticipation of their death is more traumatic than the actual day of their planned death.
To make your final days with them more memorable, consider taking your pet to visit all of its favorite spots like the local dog park or coffee shops if their health condition supports it. Talk to your pet and let them know how much you love them and how sorry you are that their life is coming to an end.
5. Help others with their grief
If there are other members in your household, you can expect them to feel some level of grief over the decision to euthanize your pet.
Talk to them about the upcoming procedure and ask them how they’re feeling. Whenever possible, offer to help them process their grief or answer any questions they may have.
6. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian
An excellent resource for information on making the best healthcare-related decisions for your pet is their veterinarian. They can counsel you regarding the decision to euthanize and all available options for your pet’s care and treatment.
Even though you may be presented with medical options to extend your pet’s life, keep in mind that the cost of some procedures is out of reach for most people.
Tips for Grieving and Mourning Your Pet After Euthanasia
After your pet is put down, returning home without them can feel like an empty void. You may notice right away that the house feels different without them there. Take a few minutes to walk around your home to breathe in the essence of your pet and to gather your thoughts.
7. Allow time for grieving
After your pet’s death, it’s crucial to allow the natural grieving process to take shape. Some people may feel the effects of their loss right away, while others will find it difficult to accept their pet’s death, thus delaying the onset of grief.
A standard grieving period is six to twelve months. Anything beyond that may signal a more complicated type of grief that should be monitored by you or a professional. Although grieving is an individual process for everyone, there are certain things to watch out for that may signal prolonged grief:
- Chronic sadness
- Yearning for your pet
- Uncontrollable crying
8. Honor your pet’s life
After euthanizing your pet, you’ll have the option of having the vet dispose of their remains, sending your pet to be cremated, or bringing your pet home with you. Most states allow you to bury your pet in your backyard following some guidelines or restrictions. If you opt for a home burial, you can plan to memorialize your pet’s life by inviting others to join you in a farewell ceremony.
You can ask others to help you honor your pet’s life by sharing unforgettable memories or photographs of your pet. You can also say a few words regarding your pet and what it meant to you. Consider writing a special poem and releasing balloons in their honor.
9. Take time off
Grief after the death of a pet is as real as the grief you feel when a person close to you dies. It’s vital to your overall well-being to take the time off necessary to process your loss and get through the initial stages of grief.
Although not all schools or employers recognize pet loss in their bereavement leave policies, presently, there are no laws in place that require employers to offer their employees time off when their pet dies. Be prepared to ask for and take other types of leave provided for students or employees.
10. Keep a memento box
You shouldn’t prioritize gathering all of their things and disposing of them right away after coming home from the vet. It may help you to take some time to get rid of your pet’s things. Some people prefer to store their pet’s favorite toys and food dishes in a keepsake box to look through later.
If seeing your pet’s toys, bed, and food bowls trigger your grief, place them all in a box and store it away out of sight. This will give you some comfort in knowing that you can always reach for the box when you need to feel closer to your pet.
11. Gather reading material
Pet loss books give you insight into other people’s perspectives on their experiences after their pets’ death. They offer hope and inspiration through their stories of love, loss, and hope.
If you’re having an especially difficult time coming to terms with your loss or just want to learn more about what to expect as you grieve, books are an excellent resource. A well-written book can accompany you through your grief journey as you find a way to move forward with your pet dies.
12. Seek support
The loss of a pet can be just as traumatic as losing a human companion. Sometimes it can be even more painful, mainly when your beloved pet provided you with the only emotional support in your life.
Social and emotional support is vital after the death of a pet. Whenever you lack this essential type of support, consider reaching out to a pet grief counselor to help you get through your grief. There are many available online resources to help get you connected to a counselor in your area. You can also schedule online sessions if you prefer to have a virtual appointment.
13. Forgive yourself
Deciding on euthanasia can be a very traumatic decision for many pet owners. Faulting yourself and feeling guilt and shame are all part of the grieving process. In time, you’ll start feeling better as your grief begins to lift. It’s important not to beat yourself up during this time and learn to accept that you made the best decision possible for your pet.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts and emotions may help you in the healing process. It can help if you write down a list of reasons why euthanasia was the best option for your pet. Begin with notating a list of your pet’s symptoms and quality of life issues that led you to your decision.
Grief and Pet Loss After Euthanasia
Pet owners often have a deep emotional connection with their pets. They often provide companionship, bring joy, and offer unconditional love. The loss of your pet can be emotionally devastating, especially when having to put them down.
Euthanasia can be a difficult and emotionally trying decision for most pet owners. When forced to decide to euthanize your pet, be compassionate, and learn to forgive yourself.
If you're looking for more on dealing with pet loss, read our guides on pet cremation and pet memorial frames.