Pets can be wonderful companions that give you unconditional love, sweet snuggles, and kisses. When your furry friend is a constant presence in your life, they grow to depend on you as much as you depend on them. They find their way into your heart and fill it with love and joy. In the end, all they seem to ask for in return is some attention, approval, and a bit of food.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Helping Children With Pet Loss
- Tips for Coping With a Pet Loss Immediately After the Death
- Tips for Grieving and Remembering Your Pet Into the Future
Most likely your pet has become a part of your family and takes up a special place in your heart, whether a dog, cat, or other furry friend like a rabbit or hamster. When your faithful and trusted companion dies, it can be a very traumatic experience for you. Pet loss can be as painful as any other major loss that you’ll ever experience, and you may find it difficult to express to others just how deeply hurt you are.
If you’re looking for some suggestions on how to deal with the loss of a pet, consider reading the following guide to help you better cope with your grief.
Tips for Helping Children With Pet Loss
A child who has suffered the loss of their pet will likely feel deep pain and sorrow as this may be the very first time that they experience a death of any sort.
If they’re having to cope with losing a pet unexpectedly, this may be the time to sit with your child to explain death to them. You may want to gather some books on grief to help you explain difficult-to-understand concepts in simpler terms that a child can understand.
1. Explain death in simple terms
Depending on your child’s age and maturity level, they may not yet understand the more complex concepts associated with dying, death, and bereavement. It helps to explain things to them in a language that is clear and easy for them to understand and that doesn’t create further confusion for them.
If your child has never experienced death, they may be feeling scared and may not know what is happening to them as they struggle to deal with their feelings and emotions. Simple, direct, and honest explanations work best when talking to children about death.
2. Read to them about death
If you feel that you’re unable to explain to your child the concept of death without creating more confusion for them, consider reading about it to them. There are many books related to death and dying available at your local library and bookstores that are appropriate for children of all ages.
If your child is old enough to read, offer age-appropriate books for them to keep and read whenever they’re ready. Encourage them to come to you to ask questions or to get clarification on concepts and ideas they may not understand.
3. Help them to sort their emotions
A child at any age is likely to have difficulties processing what they’re feeling. A younger child may not yet know how to articulate their grief requiring you to sit with them to talk about their feelings. Older children may also not know how to process their emotions and the pain that they’re feeling.
Consider also that children are often embarrassed to talk about their feelings with others and may be bottling up their grief. There are resources available online in case you need extra support in finding the right things to say. When dealing with children and teenagers, it’s okay to explain to them the death of their pet in clear language without sugarcoating anything or using flowery language.
4. Talk about their pet
Sitting with your child to talk about their pet will likely bring them much-needed closure. Talking through their feelings and emotions will make the grieving process easier for them to handle as they go through the stages of grief.
You can make a tradition out of it where you sit and talk about their pet at least once a day to remember them and to help your child process their grief.
Tips for Coping With a Pet Loss Immediately After the Death
After losing your pet you may have been caught off guard as to how much it hurts. You may not have considered before how much of an effect losing your pet would have on you. In the same way we grieve other types of losses, you can expect to grieve the loss of your pet for a few weeks and up to a few months.
And like with other types of grief, you can expect to experience some of the symptoms of grief up to a year after their loss. If you find yourself not able to cope with your grief after a few months have passed, consider seeking the help of a therapist to get you back on track.
5. Recognize changes
When you lose a pet, some of the greatest losses come in the form of lost companionship, love, and emotional support.
Grief after losing a pet is heightened when you begin to feel the void that losing your pet has created. Your life changes in many ways and requires you to recognize those changes in order to successfully process your grief.
6. Seek emotional support
Seeking outside social support to help you deal with your loss is an important step towards healing. Unfortunately, most people in our society don’t recognize the extent of loss when you lose a pet.
This sometimes leads you to feel shame for feeling like an emotional wreck when your pet dies and may cause you to internalize your feelings and emotions. The help and support of a trusted friend or online support group can do wonders for you during this time.
7. Have a memorial
When someone we love dies, we usually honor their life through grief rituals such as funerals and memorial services. These same types of rituals can be had in honor of your beloved pet to recognize the love and support they provided to you.
If you’re uncomfortable with allowing others to know the depth of your grief and sorrow over having lost your pet, you can plan a private event for one. Alternatively, you can invite a close group of friends who would understand your need to honor your pet and who would encourage and support you during this time.
8. Continue with routines
There’s no doubt that your pet filled your day with routines ranging from feeding time to daily walks or exercise. When your pet dies, you lose that structure in your routine and it may make you feel as if you have no purpose in life. Keeping with these routines may keep you from falling into depression.
Consider finding alternate ways of doing the same things you did when your pet was alive. Go for a walk around the neighborhood and say hello to your neighbors, stop by the dog park to visit with your acquaintances, or visit familiar places you used to frequent with your pet.
Tips for Grieving and Remembering Your Pet Into the Future
You can continue to honor the memory of your pet for years to come by planning special tributes and other acts of remembrance at special holidays or anniversaries. These rituals will help you heal as you grieve now and into the coming weeks.
You can expect to feel the pain and sadness of your loss for up to a few months following their death. This is a normal part of the grief process and will gradually lessen as you begin to heal.
9. Donate a bench
A beautiful way of remembering your pet is to donate a bench in their honor to the local dog park so that you and others can enjoy a place to sit and visit.
It may be painful for you to consider this type of donation immediately after losing your pet so you may want to consider waiting a few weeks before putting your plans into action.
10. Make a scrapbook
Modern digital technology makes it so easy to capture hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of our pets in daily life. It might be appropriate to set aside some time to go through those old photos.
Consider choosing some of your favorites to print and save into a scrapbook for you to look through every time you want to feel closer to your cherished pet. You can leave it out to share stories of your pet when people stop by to visit.
11. Continue with friendships
If you belonged to a special group of pet owners while your pet was alive, consider joining them for the usual outings so that you benefit from their love and support.
This is especially important when all other routines have been disrupted. It may be that you join in without your pet for a few months and perhaps decide to adopt another pet or leave the group entirely whenever you’re ready to move on.
12. Purchase a plaque
Setting a plaque in your garden or backyard with your pet’s name and date of death will help you to remember them for years to come.
The plaque can enhance an already existing garden or a special nook in your backyard, or you can create a space of beauty around it. Either way, you now have a special place to visit every time you want to feel closer to your beloved pet.
Coping With Your Grief
Losing your pet definitely leaves you with an aching hole in your heart. With time, this pain will lessen and you will find a new normal way of living without them. Your old routines and habits will find a way to new ones, and your heart will begin to heal from the pain of having lost one of your best friends in life.