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10 Tips for Coping with the Loss of a Pet
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10 Tips for Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Critter Culture Staff

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Pets are more than just animals; they're our companions in life's toughest moments, offering unconditional support and healing. They're part of our daily routines and our family. Losing a pet, be it a dog, cat, horse, monkey, or bird, can deeply affect us. But remember, the pain does ease with time, and the memories of the joy they brought can be a source of comfort.

1

The five stages of grief

The five stages of grief

  • Denial: It's common to feel shock or disbelief, especially if the loss is sudden. This is a natural defense mechanism that helps cushion the blow of the initial pain.
  • Anger: The absence of a pet can disrupt family life. Avoid blaming others for the loss; anger is a natural response but should be directed healthily.
  • Bargaining: You might regret certain things, but remember, it's not your fault. This stage involves reflecting on what could have been done differently.
  • Depression: It's a natural part of grieving. Seek a therapist if it feels overwhelming. This stage is marked by deep sadness as the reality of the loss sets in.
  • Acceptance: This stage is tough but achievable. It doesn't mean you're okay with the loss, but that you've come to understand and accept it.

owner grieving for their pet Yusuke Ide / Getty Images

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2

The positives amidst the tears

sad child with mother about to bury pet guinea pig in garden at home

Experiencing loss teaches children about life's impermanence and resilience. It's a crucial life lesson about coping with change and loss. Reaching acceptance helps you grow stronger for future challenges. Remember, life is short, and your pet would want you to live fully. Losing a pet also increases empathy and frees up resources to possibly help another animal in need. It opens your heart to new possibilities and connections.

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3

Hold a low-key funeral service

Expressing pain is part of loving deeply. Healing starts by celebrating the bond you shared. A funeral service is a way to honor and remember the joy your pet brought into your life. For many, especially those in their late 20s and mid-30s, a pet has been a constant through major life changes. Honor this journey with a heartfelt ceremony, involving those who shared in your pet's life. A funeral can be a mix of joy and sorrow, and those who care for you will understand. It's a chance to share stories and celebrate the life of your pet.

A Woman Crying for Dog's Death Plan Shooting 2 / Imazins / Getty Images

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4

Other memorial ideas

Other memorial ideas include:

  • Plant a tree or create a garden using your pet's ashes, if allowed. This creates a living tribute that grows over time.
  • Scatter the ashes in a place special to your pet. This can be a meaningful way to say goodbye and connect with nature.
  • Frame a favorite photo of your pet. This keeps their memory alive in your daily life.
  • Write a tribute or obituary. This can be a therapeutic way to express your feelings and memories.

Pet grave by the sand. jeep5d / Getty Images

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5

Chat to a pet loss counselor

Intense grief over a pet is normal. Therapists specializing in pet loss understand the deep bond between humans and animals and can help you process your feelings. They provide a safe space to express and understand your emotions. Whether you're dealing with guilt or sadness, counseling and support groups offer a way to find closure and move forward. Sharing your experience with others who understand can be incredibly healing.

woman talking to therapist stefanamer / Getty Images

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6

To leave or not to leave

The loss of a pet is often misunderstood by non-pet owners. Some workplaces may offer bereavement leave, but if not, consider asking for flexible hours or remote work. It's important to take care of your mental health during this time. Grieving can affect your work performance, so take time off if needed. Your colleagues may not understand your loss, but taking care of yourself should be your priority.

worker giving a letter to his boss while holding box of things Chalirmpoj Pimpisarn / Getty Images

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7

Dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder

Traumatic experiences, like witnessing a pet's death, can lead to PTSD. Triggers can bring back painful memories. It's important to recognize these signs and seek help. If you're struggling, a mental health professional can offer strategies to cope with these triggers. They can provide coping mechanisms and support to help you through this challenging time.

sad man sitting alone ThitareeSarmkasat / Getty Images

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8

Saying goodbye to elderly pets

owner holding dog's paws

Deciding when to euthanize a pet is difficult. Consult with your vet about pain management. This decision is never easy, but it's made out of love and a desire to prevent suffering. Many people cherish the extra time at home with their pets during their final days. It's hard to adjust to their absence, but the time spent together is precious. These moments can be a comforting reminder of the good life you provided for your pet.

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9

Pets that are in mourning

Other pets in the home also feel the loss. They may show signs of sadness, like eating less or sleeping more. It's important to give them extra attention and care during this time. Dogs and cats can become anxious or less playful. They also react to your emotions, so your grief can affect them too. Understanding their grief can help you both heal together.

Pug dog with a sad face Candice Pun / Getty Images

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10

How long should you wait before getting a new pet?

Grieving can last for months. Some find comfort in the idea of reuniting with their pet in the afterlife. This can be a comforting thought as you navigate your grief. When you're ready, consider adopting another pet. A new pet doesn't replace the old but starts a new chapter in life. It's recommended to wait at least a month before adopting again. This waiting period allows you to properly grieve and prepare for a new companion.

Cat and dog sleeping together next to a man. FamVeld / Getty Images
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