How to Cope With Loss
The enduring love of our pets and the strong bonds we develop with them makes it very difficult to say a final goodbye. They are not “just a dog” or “just a cat,” but rather a beloved member of our family, bringing companionship, fun, and joy to our lives. This unconditional love can bring significant happiness to our lives and help us navigate the sometimes stressful world around us.
When our cherished pet dies, it is normal to feel a sense of loss and experience grief. While we all respond to loss differently, it sometimes feels debilitating. Some people may not understand this intense feeling of loss, and you should never feel guilty or ashamed about grieving for your animal friend.
The loss of a pet is, unfortunately, an inevitable end to a sometimes decades-long friendship, however, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain, come to terms with losing your friend, and when the time is right, perhaps even open your heart to another animal companion.
Slow GrievingThe grieving process happens gradually. It cannot be forced or hurried and there is no timetable for grieving. For some, it takes weeks or months to come to terms with the loss of a pet while for others it may take years. Whatever grief you are experiencing, it is important to be patient with yourself and naturally allow the process to unfold.
Feeling Sad/Shocked/Lonely Is NormalDon’t let anyone tell you how to feel. With the passing of a cherished pet, it is completely normal to have an emotional response that includes feelings of sadness, shock, and loneliness. These feelings should be acknowledged and accepted as a normal step in grieving. It is okay to be angry, to cry or not to cry. It is also ok to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready. There is no reason to feel ashamed about any emotions you are feeling during your grieving.
Ignoring Your Grief Will Only Prolong the PainAcknowledging and accepting your grief is a necessary part of the healing process. Ignoring these feelings will only increase the duration and make it harder to accept your loss.
Find the Support of Those Who Have Been Through the Pain of Losing a PetThere are several online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups (click here for more details). Being able to share your grief with someone who has experienced similar emotions can be very therapeutic and reduce the severity of the emotions you are feeling.
A Final Goodbye Can Help the Healing ProcessFor some, a funeral can help you and your family members openly express their feelings and help with the healing process. There is no right or wrong answer. You should do whatever you feel will benefit and help you the most.
Celebrate Life by Creating an Everlasting MemorialCreate a special memorial, plant a tree in memory of your pet, or compile a scrapbook that helps to remember all the good memories you have with your pet. Try to look at it as a celebration of life. Remembering the fun and love you shared with your pet can help you to eventually move on.
Look After YourselfNavigating the emotional rollercoaster of losing a pet can quickly start to affect you mentally and physically. It is important to look after your mental and physical needs, especially during this emotional time. Try to maintain a normal routine. It’s also very important to make sure you are talking to others about your feelings, eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to help you on your path of healing.
Seek Professional HelpSometimes we need a little extra. If the grief you are experiencing is interfering with your ability to function, it is important you see your doctor or mental health professional.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends, so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together....