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Grief & Grieving

The first things to do after your pet dies

Anyone who considers a pet a beloved friend, companion, or family member knows that the companionship and loyalty you share with your pet is a special kind of love. The bonds you develop with your pets are sustaining, comforting, and unwavering. In fact, pet relationships can be among the most powerful in your life. How do you face life without them?

Experiencing the death of a pet can be just as heartbreaking as losing a human friend or family member. With their death, you may lose one of your most comfortable relationships , which provided support whenever you needed it.

But not only does losing a pet create a significant emotional loss, it can also create changes to your daily routines that can be just as distressing, leaving you feeling lost and alone. Here's how to get through the first few weeks.

Acknowledge your loss

While the grief after losing a beloved pet friend can be just as intense or last as long as the loss of a significant person, lack of support around the mourning process can sometimes leave you confused or even hurt.

It’s important to accept that it’s completely normal to mourn the loss of your pet. You don’t need to ignore your feelings or avoid them – and you certainly don’t have to justify your grief to anyone who tells you that a pet is not as worthy of grief as a person.

Find time to grieve

The loss of a pet can feel traumatic – whether you have family members or not, or whether you and your family are grieving as a unit. Take as much time as you (and other family members) need to process your loss. As you begin to carry on your daily routines without caring for your pet, you may begin to experience other emotions, especially if your pet was elderly, ill, or the death was accidental.

Get the support you need

While losing a pet is painful and overwhelming, it can also be a very lonely process, as many people don't acknowledge or recognize that grief for a pet is very real. Because of that, friends and family may not be as supportive as you’d like. And sometimes grieving pet owners may feel embarrassed over the extent of their heartbreak and feel ashamed to reach out to friends for comfort. If you don’t get the empathy you need from those you know, you can find solace with those who understand what you’re going through, e.g., other pet owners, pet loss support groups, etc.

Honor your pet

Your companion was a significant part of your emotional and daily life, and honoring your pet’s memory with a funeral, memorial, or other service can help provide a sense of closure. Open your ceremony to those who also loved your pet or are able to appreciate the role your pet played in your life.

Double your love to your other pets

If you have any other pets, they might also be grieving over the loss of their companion. You might notice sluggishness, decreased appetite, or a loss of interest in their normal activities. Be sure to maintain their feeding and care schedules and offer them extra love and concern (and cuddles).

As you continue your journey to acceptance, it can be beneficial to you and your other pets to establish a new routine and continue the self-care you practiced after your initial loss. If, over time, you are uncomfortable with the force of your feelings or you are concerned by your ongoing grief, seek out a grief counselor with experience with major losses, including pet losses.

Difficult though it may be, being open to feelings of grief when they occur, taking the time to work through your sorrow, and acting on a plan forward (on your own or with help) can help bring you the comfort that one day you will be able to transform your sadness to remember your companion with an open heart and tears of joy ●

Grief & Grieving

Grief & Grieving

Grief isn’t a feeling. It’s a process. Everyone experiences it differently, and you are the only one who can feel your feelings. But some understanding may help you come to grips with what you are going through.