With nearly 70 million dogs and more than 74 million cats in American households, per the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, it isn’t a surprise that many individuals will need to deal with pet loss at some point in their lives. Whether there are children in your home or not, handling the death of a pet can be a difficult matter. After all, they truly do become part of the family, leaving you to manage the vast array of emotions you will feel as a result.
Seek Professional Guidance
If you have never dealt with the loss of a pet before or you have children or other pets who are having a difficult time coping, the ASPCA offers a pet loss hotline. You can call and talk to someone who can give you advice for handling your specific situation. Their website also offers other resources that can help you deal with the loss of your pet and help your children handle the news.
Create a Memorial for Your Pet
Even if you aren’t able to bury your pet, creating a memorial can be a great way to remember the life you shared with your furry friend. Plant a special tree in your yard, order a plaque with your pet’s name on it, hold a funeral service, create a shadowbox with your pet’s name tag, favorite toy and collar, put together a scrapbook or even write a letter to get your emotions out. If you are trying to help someone else cope with the loss, consider sending one of the sympathy gifts at FTD.com. A memorial will give you a positive way to remember your pet.
Understand the Grief Process
People go through a specific grief process. However, there is no way to predict how long each stage will last for an individual. When grieving for a pet, it is important to let each person heal as long as it takes. Never tell someone they should be over it by now simply because you are. Remember, it is perfectly normal for everyone to go through the stages of grief, which include denial, anger and sadness. When you become frustrated, remind yourself that the pain will lessen over time. Eventually, you will reach the stage of acceptance and feel better able to move on.
The length of the grieving process varies for each person, but the way grief is expressed will also vary. Some individuals will show physical signs of grief, while others may express their grief through their social interactions, emotions, intellectual behavior and spirituality. There is no right or wrong to grieve.
Moving on After Your Loss
It can be difficult to think about right away, but there may come a time when you are ready to get another pet. The most important thing you need to remember when you are getting a new pet is to allow yourself time to grieve, especially if you have children in the house. Getting a new pet too quickly can impede the grieving process and may even cause issues for bonding with the new pet. Make sure every member of your family is ready before you head out to adopt a new dog or cat to bring into the family.