Grieving for a lost pet is always personal, can be intense, and quite simply lasts as long as it lasts. And often our friends don’t know how to comfort us, or may not understand when we fail to “get over it” quickly. However, like many of life’s transitions, the pain of pet loss can often be eased by talking it through in a safe and supportive setting with others who have suffered similar loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it normal for me to feel so angry/sad/confused after my pet has died?
There are many forms of grief that are completely normal. The most distressing are hallucination-type experiences that leave an impression that you are hearing familiar sounds of your pet walking or calling. Some people even think that they see their pet out of the corner of their eye, especially after just waking up. Often, it is the most responsible owners who feel guilty and confused about the choices they made regarding the end of their pet’s life. Occasionally, a person may feel temporarily angry with their veterinarian or others involved in end-of-life issues. These feelings of anger may be our attempts to distract from the ultimate encounter with the sadness of the loss.
What are some things I can do to work through my grief?
The most important thing is to recognize that the loss of a beloved pet is a serious event that society does not always respect. Your first task is to take care of yourself. Make sure you get the rest and nutrition you need, even when you feel distracted. Your concentration may be impaired, too, so that you need to take extra care with driving and crossing the street. Grief is a normal process, and time really does heal.
Sometimes it helps to create a special place in your home to which you can go when you want to remember your pet. Although remembering may be painful at first, eventually that pain will turn into sweet memories.
How long should we wait until we get another pet for the family?
Even though your house feels very empty, and your young children may be asking for a replacement right away, it is best to wait at least one month before bringing home a new pet.
When you’re ready, you can check out the dogs and cats in your local shelter. If you feel attracted to a new pet, don’t worry that it is a betrayal of the lost animal. Your ability to give a good home to a new pet is really a compliment to your previous relationship.