The death of a pet is more difficult to deal with than you expect. People often say "oh its just an animal." But the bond between you and your pet is as strong as a human to human bond. The loss of my pets have been just as difficult as losing a fellow person.
Remember that it is normal to grieve. Don't let people tell you to get over it. With time the pain recedes. The amount of time may vary from person to person. Don't suppress your emotions. Let it out.
There are several stages of grieving you should be aware of. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Understanding your emotions will help you get through each stage. Each person will spend a unique amount of time in each stage. It is not a one size fits all.
In the first stage of grieving you may be overcome with emotion and do not want to accept what has transpired. Loss is irreversible and we never want to let go. It is especially tough if the death occurred suddenly. If your pet had a chronic terminal illness you can prepare yourself overtime and spread out the pain of loss. Whether you had to euthanize your pet or if it was a natural death, the grieving is similar. With an acute unexpected death you experience the pain all at once. A huge rush of emotions will make you feel weak and hopeless in life.
It is then natural to become angry and look for someone orsomething to blame. You may repetitiously think about the same things to a point of obsession. Realize that this anger is normal and finding fault in yourself or others is likely just part of the emotional process but you must come to peace with the loss. Most of the time there is no one to blame. Unfortunately death happens when we don’t want it to.
Once the anger has passed you may attempt bargaining with a higher power to get your loved one back and then depression sets in when you comprehend the loss as permanent. Depression can often last a while. A good support system and a person to talk to can help you through depression. An understanding friend or family member can be there for you. If you don’t have anyone to talk to you can contact one of the many pet loss hotlines.
Memorializing your pet also helps with closure and is the start of acceptance of their loss. Photos, urns, a funeral, tombstone, or other memorializing keepsakes are all things that people use to fill this purpose. Some people like the idea of keeping their pet’s ashes and other people don’t want to keep them. It is a very personal decision with no right or wrong answer.
Coping with a loss is not easy. Don’t rush to get to the acceptance stage of grieving. Experience the emotions but do not let them consume you. You still need to take care of yourself by eating healthy, exercising and sleeping. You never get over a loss but you learn to live with it.
By: Dr. Aileen Lugo
Pet Doctor at Home
Peaceful Home Euthanasia