Losing a companion animal is devastating. And yet, many pet parents don’t receive the kind of emotional support they might expect if they had lost a human family member. Failing to show such a depth of compassion is common for those who have never shared a special bond with a companion animal. These people might say to themselves, “What’s the big deal … it was just a pet.” What they don’t understand is a very simple truth … losing a companion animal is losing a member of your family.
Anytime we suffer a dramatic loss, it is appropriate to grieve. Your first priority should be to come to grips with the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to grieve the passing of your companion animal. Accepting the magnitude of your loss can facilitate the process of grieving. The more you fight to suppress your feelings, the worse your grief can become. Hiding the heartache will do you no good.
Grief takes many forms, whether it’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression and ultimately, acceptance. While many tout the different characterizations of grief as if they were absolute stages, these steps should be interpreted more as a continuum of emotion. That is, some may not experience them and others may experience many simultaneously.
Some find the process of grief frustrating, as it is a process of reaction. We may ask ourselves, “What can I do to feel better?” Those who have experienced a recent loss should take some comfort in knowing that there are outlets for this impulse. There are several organizations that allow you to contribute funds in the memory of your companion animal. Many of these groups will publish an announcement of your gift along with a special message of tribute. In this way, you can create a legacy for your companion animal.
Additionally, you should be certain to actively take care of yourself physically. Because grief takes a toll on us physically, you should allow yourself extra time to sleep, be sure to exercise and eat well.
Don’t arbitrarily assign time limits to your grief. The bottom line is – as with most emotional processes – it takes as long as it takes.
Above all, know that you are not alone in your experience. Be sure to talk to other pet parents about your loss, but be sure to spend time sharing memories about the best times you spent with your companion animal, too.