The sadness you feel when your pet dies can feel overwhelming at times. Cats and dogs become our family members. Their passing is felt as deeply — and sometimes moreso — than when a human dies.
As an uncritical giver of love and constant companion, a pet makes its way into your heart as well as your home. Its death can feel devastating. Finding ways to cope can lessen the pain and shorten the grieving process.
Constructive Ways to Cope with the Death of a Pet
Ask for Support from People You Know. Sympathetic friends and relatives who knew your pet can be your first source of emotional support. Let them know about your loss, and tell them how you are feeling. If you are too broken up to call, send an email. You'll be surprised how comforting other animal lovers can be. They'll understand.
Create a Tribute to Your Pet. Some pet owners have found that using their creativity helps to cope with the loss of a companion. If you like to write, craft a poem about your pet or a farewell letter thanking him or her for the friendship and love provided. Dig out a favorite photo of your pet, buy a nice frame for it, and put it in a place of honor.
Visit the Rainbows Bridge. A memorial site dedicated to beloved pets who have died, Rainbows Bridge allows users to create a place on the Web where their pets are remembered. There is a $25 fee to create a "Residency Stone" that can carry a photo and epitaph for your pet along with stories of remembrance that you write. You pet's page on Rainbow Bridge can be enhanced with virtual toys, flowers, and other items and you can visit as often as you like.
Seek Pet Loss Therapy. If you find that you can't stop thinking about your pet and your emotions are interfering with your work or relationships, getting counseling from a specialist can help. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement features a database of pet bereavement counselors and support groups in the United States. Visit the site to see if there is one near where you live. If not, contact your local veterinarian, humane society, or SPCA to ask if they can refer you to a practitioner.
Volunteer at an Animal Shelter. Are you able to be around other animals, but not ready to adopt a new pet yet? If so, consider devoting a few hours a week to an animal shelter. Dogs need to be walked, cats need to be petted, and you may find that giving of yourself is an escape from sadness.
How Not to Cope When Your Pe t Dies
There are good, productive ways to deal with grief when a pet dies — and there are ones that aren't likely to do you any good. These are ones that are guaranteed not to work or to make you feel even worse.
Berate Yourself with Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas. Regrets won't bring your pet back, and you can't rewrite history. Let it go.
Increase Your Alcohol, Sugar, and Nicotine Consumption. Short-term comforts to drown your sorrows will yield long-term problems.
Spend Time with Non-Supportive People. Pouring your heart out to non-pet owners who have little empathy, frenemies, and people who don't have the time or patience to listen to you will only make you feel worse.
Adopt a New Pet Immediately. Although some people can't bear an empty house without a pet, it's a good idea to wait a little while before you adopt the next one. Those who don't may be disappointed when the new pet doesn't behave like the old one — and that's unfair both to them and the animal. So give yourself time to heal. When the time is right to bring a new pet into your home, you'll know it. And you are going to fall in love all over again.