Losing a beloved cat or dog can stir powerful feelings of sadness, anger, hurt and emptiness. No two people experience mourning in the same way, or need the same amount of time to move on. The advice below will help you understand how you feel and what you can do to cope with the situation.
Allow yourself to grieve the loss of a pet
A pet is never “just a pet”: they’re a beloved member of the family. They bring companionship to people who live alone, comfort after a rough day, the chance to socialize with other dog lovers at the park and even an excuse to keep a consistent workout schedule. People who have never experienced such a deep bond may not understand how important your pet was in your life. Never feel guilty or embarrassed for grieving the loss of your friend.
Don’t rush the mourning process
As painful as grieving can be, there’s no shortcut or way around it. You have to let yourself experience it, in your own way and in your own time. Your process may follow a linear path (going through the classic stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) or come and go in waves. Some people will start feeling better after a few weeks, while others may need months or years. Embrace how you feel and give yourself the time you need.
Celebrate the good times with your pet
Funerals aren’t about death, but about celebrating a life well-lived. Look through photos, and remember all the funny things your pet did as a puppy or kitten. Write down your fondest memories and what you liked most about them. Create a pet memorial, with their picture and favourite toys. Set aside time to reminisce on all the wonderful moments you shared with your pet, and how lucky you are to have had them in your life.
Look after yourself and your other pets
When feeling such strong emotions, it’s normal to experience a temporary decrease in appetite, having trouble sleeping or lose interest in activities that used to bring you joy. The grieving process can be demanding on the body, so make an extra effort to eat properly, get enough sleep and do light exercise to keep your energy level high.
If you have other pets, they may also feel anxious at the absence of their companion. Follow their regular feeding and playtime schedule. A comforting routine will bring stability to their life. You may also consider spending some extra time playing or exercising with your pet, allowing yourself to support each other.
Reach out to other pet owners for support
When seeking support from friends and family, look for people who have previously gone through the loss of a pet. You may also consider looking for Facebook groups, or local pet loss support groups. Such people may be in a better position to understand how you feel and just how important your pet was to you.