Losing a beloved pet is always emotionally devastating. Moving on without our furry companions is a massive adjustment, especially if they have been in our lives for a long time. While experiencing loss is an inevitable part of owning a pet, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain, and come to terms with your grief.
Some people find grief following the loss of a pet comes in stages, where they experience different feelings such as denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Others find that their grief is more cyclical, coming in waves, or a series of highs and lows. The lows are likely to be deeper and longer at the beginning and then gradually become shorter and less intense as time goes by. Still, even years after a loss, a sight, a sound, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief.
While we all respond to loss differently, the level of grief you experience will often depend on the circumstances of your pet’s passing. If you were unable to afford expensive veterinary treatment to prolong your pet’s life, you may feel a profound sense of guilt. If your pet’s passing was an accident or a devastating tragedy, coming to terms with such loss can be even harder. And the more significant your pet was to you, the more intense the emotional pain you will feel. Whatever the circumstances are, grieving process happens gradually. It cannot be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold. Grieving is a highly individual experience, no one else can tell you when it is time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment.
Express your feelings – Feeling sorrow, shocked, or lonely is a normal reaction to the loss of a beloved pet. Exhibiting these feelings does not mean you are weak. And for real healing, it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it. It is okay to be angry, to cry or not to cry. It is also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you are ready. Reach out to others who have lost pets. If your own friends and family members are not sympathetic about pet loss, find someone who is. Sometimes, the best support for your grief may come from outside your usual circle of friends and family members. Often, another person who has also experienced the loss of a beloved pet may better understand what you are going through.
Celebrate your pet’s life – Holding a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or otherwise sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion. Remembering the fun and love you shared with your pet can help you to eventually move on.
Exercise, eat & sleep well – The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Spend time face to face with people who care about you, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins to help boost your mood.
After your pet’s passing, the usual time to take care of your pet becomes blank. Try to fill that time by picking up a new hobby, taking a class, volunteering, or even fostering another animal that is in need. If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but can also help to elevate your well being.
Grief for our animal companions can only be dealt with over time. A healthier grief journey may come from taking your time to work through your feelings rather than trying to push them away or ignore it. If your grief is persistent and interferes with your ability to function, seek professional help who can evaluate you for depression.
Info source: helpguide.org
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