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Women in Focus

How to grieve the loss of a pet

by Marie-Sarah Published on December 3, 2015

All pet owners know that the day will come when they will have to deal with the pain of losing their beloved pet. Unfair as it may be, the sad reality is that most cats and dogs don’t live more than 15 years. Feelings of sadness or even depression are a normal reaction to a pet’s death.

If you’ve recently experienced the death of a pet, understanding the grieving process is the first step to healing. Obviously, people grieve differently and no coping strategy will work for everyone but hopefully some of these will help you.

Fully identify your feelings and accept them

Sadness
Your pet brought you a lot of joy over the years. Like people, pets have personalities that make them unique and endearing. But unlike people, pets love their owners unconditionally. The bond between a master and his pet can be very close, making the loss of that pet all the more difficult.

Anger
Many owners become justifiably angry when others don’t understand the depth of their grief. After all, some will say, it’s just an animal! Many of the people who have never experienced the love of a pet don’t understand the depth of this bond, leading them to be surprised or even judgemental about your reaction. But don’t take their words to heart. They just don’t know any better!

Guilt
Many owners feel guilty when their pet dies, be it from an accident or because they had to put the pet down. But in order to heal, you have to release this guilt. Remember all the love you showed your pet over the years and that you did your very best for them.

Take concrete steps to lighten your mood

Do what it takes to shake that sadness! Talk to the people around you, starting with friends who have gone through the same thing. They will understand how you feel more than anyone.

If painting, scrapbooking, or writing brings you comfort, you may find it cathartic to use one of these art forms to create a lasting tribute for your pet.

If you’re single, your loss will only be magnified so don’t worsen your depression by spending too much time alone with your thoughts. Why not take a class or start a new activity?

Support your family

If you’ve lost a family pet, remember that the rest of the family is grieving too and that they will need your support moving through the grieving process, especially kids, since this may be the first time they have to deal with death.

If you have other pets, even they may feel out of sorts because they miss their friend or because they feel the family’s grief, so be sure to show them you love them in spite of your sadness.

Finally, go easy on yourself. There’s no such thing as a “normal” grieving period. Be good to yourself and to your loved ones and know that your heart will eventually heal.

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