Grieving the Loss of a PetMarch 1, 2023
Pets bring so much joy and meaning to our lives. Therefore, it makes sense that when we lose a pet through death, or they run away and get lost, the grief we feel can be excruciating. It is entirely right and appropriate to grieve this empty space in your heart and life, because pets are extremely important. Animal friends provide companionship, support, love, and happiness. Our hearts go out to all of you who are grieving the loss of your pet, and we want to provide help for you in your time of sorrow.
Losing a pet is hard enough for adults, but it can be extremely confusing and disruptive for children. The loss of a favorite animal, may be your child’s first experience with death. Each child’s response is unique. Some things you may want to watch for are
- blaming the veterinarian or their parents
- losing their appetite or desire to do something they always did with their pet, such as, playing outside, taking walks, or snuggling on the couch
- wanting to spend extra time alone
- experiencing new fears, such as a fear of being alone at night
Truly, grief is as unique as each child. And don’t be surprised if some children may appear to barely grieve at all. It’s true that some children move on quickly However, they may be harboring hurt inside. It’s important to spend time one-on-one, asking some questions about how they are doing and allowing them to ask questions. In other words, be approachable and watchful.
It is impossible to know what someone’s response will be until the death happens. Just know that it is so important for families to tenderly comfort one another, especially children, during this time of loss.
You can explain the death of a pet to a person, but what do you do about pet companions who are left behind? Give your surviving pet plenty of extra attention. It may be helpful to make doggie “play dates” with the dogs of other friends. The old friend will never be replaced, but it may help to meet with other dogs.
Singles and the Elderly
Grief over the loss of the pet can be extremely hard for single people and those who are elderly. It is very important to check on those who live alone who are grieving a pet. They may need time to talk about their grief, so expect to lend a sympathetic, listening ear.
Celebration of Life
It is very appropriate to have a Celebration of Life for a beloved pet. Whether you decide to bury or cremate your pet and spread ashes (check with your state guidelines regarding scattering ashes), you may want to commemorate the life of your pet in a special way. Here are some ideas:
- Host a pizza party and ask guests to bring an animal toy or donation for a local animal shelter.
- Take your family to a place where you loved to go with your pet – a park, lake, river, or a favorite hiking trail.
- Have an intimate family meal and show home videos or a slideshow that includes favorite pictures of your pet.
Thankfully, there are several support groups available for those grieving a pet. These can be helpful, especially when in the midst of grief, you don’t know where to turn. We will share some of these resources with you:
PET LOSS HOTLINES:
855-352-5683 Lap of Love Pet Loss and Bereavement Support
607-218-7457 Cornell University Pet Loss Support
508-839-7966 Tufts University Pet Loss Support
ONLINE SUPPORT GROUPS & CHAT ROOMS:
Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) Chat Rooms
Rainbow Bridge Pet Loss Grief Center
Hoofbeats in Heaven (Horse Loss support)
IAADP Assistance Dog Loss Committee
Honoring the Bond: Support & Resources for Pet Owners
PET LOSS COUNSELORS & SUPPORT GROUPS:
The Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement
WEBSITES THAT INCLUDE VARIOUS RESOURCES RELATED TO THE ILLNESS OR LOSS OF A PET:
The Ohio State University Honoring the Bond Program
Colorado State University, Argus Institute
Eventually you may want to find a new pet. It may be better to grieve the old pet before finding a new furry friend. Of course, your pet can never be replaced, but there are many animals needing a good home. Perhaps in time, you can offer a home to an eager new companion.
As always, at Keohane we want to help you through every season of life. Please feel free to learn more at our website or call us today at 617-773-3551.
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