Grieving the loss of a pet is EXACTLY the same - or sometimes worse - than grieving the loss of a human being. Never let anyone tell you that “it’s just a dog” or “it’s just a cat.” They are not ITs. They are our heart and soul.
You have a right to be devastated. Never discount your feelings because it will just make the grieving process worse. You must allow yourself to feel all of the emotions that naturally result from the loss of your pet.
Now that you know you are allowed to be traumatized by the loss of your pet, let’s get into what this process may be like for you. Always remember, though; the grieving process is different for everyone. While there are many similarities between people, how one person grieves can look very different from how another person grieves. That’s why you should treat the information that follows as a guide on what you might experience in the coming days, weeks and months. This will help you feel less alone and more supported as you heal from this tragic loss in your life.
In this guide, you will learn about:
● Why you feel the way you do.
● Thoughts you may have, and what they mean.
● How you can remain healthy through the grieving process.
● What you can do to help yourself feel better.
● How life will be without your pet.
Keep this guide handy as you go through the process, so you can refer to it as you face new challenges.
Why You Feel The Way You Do
The reason you feel the way you do is because you’ve just experienced a great loss in your life. Your day-to-day life has changed drastically from the moment you wake up to the minute you close your eyes and go to sleep.
The loss comes in many forms:
● You’re no longer taking your pet out for a walk or to use the potty.
● You’re not doing your usual morning routine of treats and food.
● You may look over at where your beloved pet’s bed used to be and there’s now no one there.
● The special place on the couch where he/she would lie next to you is now empty...cold.
● Someone comes to your door, and it’s quiet.
In all of these instances, there’s a loss. Something is missing, and that can be very difficult to swallow.
The other reason you’re feeling so down is because of the enormous impact your pet had on you. This isn’t just some unemotional relationship. You LOVE him/her. This was a living being that you loved and loved you. You CANNOT say that about too many people in your life, but you CAN say that about your pet.
The way you feel does not just lie on the surface. There are physiological effects that you experience with your pet. When you patted your dog or cat, your body reacted and made you feel at ease. You don’t have that anymore. Instead, you’re left to comfort your body without those physiological effects. That is hard! Your body is used to the calming effects of patting your baby, and now your body is wondering where that went.
So, as you can see, you feel the way you do (sad, upset, miserable, depressed) for a reason. You’re grieving, and this is a natural response to losing a pet - no matter what anyone says or thinks.
Typical Thoughts Through the Grieving Process
You will have many thoughts during the grieving process. These thoughts may be troubling to you, but you should know they are normal.
Some of the thoughts you may have are:
● I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to go on without my furbaby.
● What will ever do without him?
● Why did this ever have to happen?
● It’s not fair. He/ She was too young to leave me.
● I never want another pet.
● I just want to die. I just want to be with my baby.
While all of the above thoughts are normal, some thoughts can be a sign of something much worse happening - depression. When someone suffers from depression - whether acute or chronic - it’s important to assess whether suicide is a risk.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. This is a completely confidential hotline, so you never have to worry about anyone finding out. The people who are at the end of the phone are experienced in helping people who are suffering just like you are right now. Yes, even people who are grieving the loss of their pet.
When thoughts enter your mind, do not tell yourself that you’re crazy, or tell yourself that you shouldn’t think like that - accept those thoughts for what they are and be kind to yourself. For instance, if you think, “I don’t know how I’ll go on without my boy/ girl”, tell yourself that it does feel like that right now, but as time goes on, you’ll learn to live without him/her. Tell yourself that you just need to hang on and have faith that life will improve little by little.
You will never get over the loss of your pet, but you will learn how to live with that loss.
How to Remain Healthy While Going Through the Grieving Process
The grieving process is traumatic, and because of that, you may not take care of yourself as well as you should. This may mean that you won’t sleep as much as you usually do, or eat as healthy as you should. You may not eat enough - or eat too much. You may drink too much alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. These are all ways you’re coping, and while you may think that they are making you feel better, they are actually making you feel worse.
Your physical body is going through a lot of stress right now. That stress is making your body work harder, and for that reason, it needs extra fuel. That fuel comes from eating healthy, sleeping well, and exercising. As hard as it may be for you to take care of yourself, it’s important that you try your best.
This doesn’t mean you should stress yourself out over it. Of course, you should chide yourself when you eat something that is unhealthy or you overeat. You should be concerned if you aren’t able to sleep at night.
Remember the golden rule - be kind to yourself.
Just do as much as you can to take care of your body and your mind during the grieving process. If you need a hamburger and fries to feel better, go ahead and feed your soul. Maybe later, you can have a salad.
If you’re drinking a little too much, just be mindful of it and try to reduce the number of drinks you are consuming. The same goes for cigarettes. Just try to do what you can to refrain from anything that is compounding the stress on your body.
What To Do To Help You Feel Better
This is the section that many people will jump to because as painful as this situation has been, most people just want to get over it. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just get over it - you have to go through it.
While you’re going through it, you can engage in some activities that will help you feel better.
The following are some of those activities:
● Read Books - There are many books on grieving the loss of a pet. Search online or spend some time in a bookstore and browse. Reading as much as you can (just like how you’re reading this guide) will help you feel less alone AND give you more tips on how to cope with this great loss in your life.
● Take It Easy - There’s no sense in stressing yourself even more by overloading yourself with work. Instead, step back from work as much as possible right now. This may not make sense to many people. You may not want to step back, but instead, bury yourself in work so you don’t have to deal with all of the feelings and thoughts. This is not the right way to grieve. This is pushing your grieving away, which will only come back and haunt you in the future. It’s important that you take the time to embrace your grief. This is how your mind, body, and soul will recover.
● Engage in Stress Relief - As mentioned, you’re going through a lot of stress because of this great loss in your life. That’s why you should engage in positive stress relief. This may mean taking a relaxing bath, going for a long walk in the countryside, getting a massage or just playing your favourite game.
● Look at Pictures - This probably makes you anxious and you’re first thought is, “NO WAY!” but trust the process. Looking at pictures will help you remember all of the wonderful times you’ve had with your furbaby. You’ll smile, you’ll laugh, and you’ll treasure your pet in a brand new way. This little body is a big part of your life, and he/she will always be a part of your life. In that way, he/she is never gone.
● Connect with Good Friends - Do not isolate yourself. Connect with your friends so you can talk about how you’re feeling. Yes, it’s true, not everyone will understand. That’s okay, though. Getting it out of your mind will help you vent a bit of the tension you’re harboring.
● Treat Yourself - What do you love to eat or do? Go ahead - this is your chance to do it. You deserve it and your pet would want this for you.
● Embrace Spirituality - Do you believe in a Higher Power? If so, this is the time to turn to your Higher Power and pray, meditate, and have faith. This will comfort you, and help you through this process. Take a few minutes each day to connect with your spirituality and you’ll likely feel yourself feel much less stressed.
Decide each day what you will do to support your emotional and mental health. If you make a point to do it, you’ll be more likely to do it, and then you’ll feel better from it. It’s going to be tough to get yourself motivated, but if you can make yourself do it, you’ll see how effective it can be during this difficult time.
How Life Will Be Without Your Pet
Life will be different without your pet. How could it not be different? Your pet was in your life for many years, and now, he/she isn’t anymore. Each and every day that you go through without your furbaby, the closer you get to the day, you will no longer be feeling so devastated by the loss.
This does not mean that someday you will not love or miss your companion. You will always love and miss your best friend. However, you will learn to live a life without them. It’s a new life that you haven’t been living, so it’s going to take time to get used to it.
You WILL have joy in your life again. You must believe this, and hang in there until that joy comes back. There will be times when you won’t feel like that joy will ever return, but then one day, you’ll experience it. You may even be surprised that you’ve finally felt that happiness again.
Don’t feel guilty when that happens. It’s supposed to happen, and your pet wants you to feel that way again. Your pet loves you and always wants the best for you, even if he/she may not be physically with you anymore.
Hang In There - Time Will Heal You
This is your time to grieve, and through that grieving, you will heal. Take a minute to watch the video below. It will remind you of your baby. It will make you smile. It will make you cry. Let it move you, so it can heal you. We are here to support you. Feel free to reach out.
In memory of Indi, Merry, Tiggy, Poop, Posci, Loki, Tiger, Cloe, Barney and all the little loved ones that have gone before us.