Grief is our emotional reaction to loss, and it is especially profound when there is a strong attachment or affection present, such as with a pet. During grief, many difficult and unexpected emotions may arise, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. In terms of timeliness or depth of grieving, there are no fixed rules to define normal grief.
Subtypes of Grief:
- Disenfranchised: This can occur when a person suffers a loss, but others fail to recognize the significance of the loss in the person’s life.
- Complicated: Strong grief that goes beyond 6 months and has other underlying factors (i.e., other losses, trauma, etc.) This grief may need the help of a professional.
- Re-Grief: It is possible to feel previous losses with new losses; they can appear unexpectedly and intensely. Pet loss, for example, can bring up not only prior pets but also other family losses.
Self-care is always an important practice to follow, but perhaps even more imperative during this trying time. Take care of yourself by following good nutrition, practicing a healthy sleep schedule, moving your body, and finding ways to relax that you enjoy. Be kind to yourself during this time. Honor your feelings. Allow sadness and joy to occur at the same time. Reach out to any friends or family that understand your bond and grief. Reach out to your friendly Ethos Veterinary Social Worker to set up a time to talk.
- Why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously
- Coping with the Loss of a Pet
- Why the Loss of a Pet can be the Hardest to Bear
Pet loss support groups provide a safe environment for people to share their stories. One advantage of group therapy is that it helps people recognize the commonality of their emotions; you are not alone in grieving the loss of a beloved pet. San Diego Humane Society offers a list of local in-person or virtual support groups. As well as other resources that might help you navigate during this difficult time.
How to Honor Your Pet After They Pass
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The death of a pet is often a child’s first experience with death and the grief surrounding it. So, it’s important to be open and honest with children about what has happened. It’s important to talk to them at a level appropriate to their age and level of development. Use simple language, like “She was very sick, and she died”, and avoid using euphemisms like “She went to sleep” to avoid confusion about sleeping and death.
Kids are kids first. They are grievers second. Children love to play, create, and do things with their hands and bodies. Grief doesn’t stop that.
Activities you can do with your children:
- Make a collage or scrapbook
- Plant a tree or flowers in memory of the pet
- Hold a memorial service.
Books for Children:
- Dog Heaven, Cynthia Rylant, 1995
- Cat Heaven, Cynthia Rylant, 1997 · Being Brave for Bailey by Corey Gut, DVM
- The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia
- The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst
- My Pet Died: A Coloring Book for Grieving Children by Alan D. Wolfel
Books for Adults:
- Preparing for the Loss of Your Pet, Myrna Milani, DVM, Prima Publishing, 1988.
- Oh, Where Has My Pet Gone? A Pet Loss Memory Book, Ages 3-103, Sally Sibbitt, B. Libby Press, 1991.
- Soul Comfort for Cat Lovers: Coping Wisdom for Heart and Soul After the Loss of a Beloved Feline by Liz Eastwood
- Pet Loss Meditations, Lorise Weil
- When a Family Pet Dies, JoAnn Tuzeo Jarolmen
- Good-bye My Friend, Mary, and Herb Montgomery