Pet Loss Bereavement
No one is ever prepared for a pet’s death. For most people, pets are a special member of the family & when they leave their loved ones, the resulting grief can be difficult to deal with, if not unbearable. Sadly, our culture does not support the mourning of animals, resulting in owners feeling so very alone in their grief.
I have been walking with clients through this pet grief process for 5 years. I stumbled onto this form of therapy when my beloved Golden Retriever, Slugger, died suddenly after what was reportedly a successful regimen of chemo as treatment for his Lymphoma. I have raised Goldens for 30 years & losing a pet is never easy, but Slugger was my favorite Golden of all.
As a clinician, I was well aware of the fact that I was experiencing feelings of depression after the loss of Slugger. My heart hurt beyond belief & I was struggling to move beyond my own grief, so I phoned a colleague who specializes in grief work. With her help I was able to process the hurt & its meaning in my life & then move on to get a new puppy.
That process was something that rang a bell in my mind – why don’t I offer this help to others who are having difficulty moving beyond the pain of loss of a much loved pet? Well, I do a lot of pet bereavement, so if you are facing the anticipated or past death of your beloved pet, please don’t delay in contacting me so we can begin travelling this journey together.
- Talk to your pet. Say the things you want your pet to know.
- Plan how you want to say good-bye. Create an ending that is meaningful to you. How would you like to honor your pet’s life?
- Talk to your vet about the euthanasia process & what to expect.
- Include children in the process of saying good-bye & memorializing at a developmentally appropriate level.
- Create transitional objects. These are objects which keep us connected to our pet after their leaving us, such as photos, their favorite toy, their leash, etc.
- Honor your grief – be gentle & kind with yourself before, dying & after the death of your pet.
- Reach out for support. Ask for help from those who understand the special bond you had with your pet. Seek help from a qualified therapist when needed.
- Determine how you will handle your pet’s body after death. Discuss your questions/concerns with your vet.
- If you decide to get another pet, avoid comparisons between a new puppy or kitten & memories of your departed pet.
People are often shocked at how sad they feel when they lose a pet, overwhelmed by sadness.
In mourning our pets we want to honor them, to honor our experience.