Words can’t describe how it feels to lose a pet. For many, a furry friend is a beloved member of their family. For others, their pet is the only family they have. These are a few reasons why pet loss can be so hard.
Often when a pet passes away, people resort to incorrect mechanisms to deal with the grief. Sometimes they even attempt to replace the pet immediately. Unfortunately, there is little effective guidance for grieving pet owners. As a result, many pet grievers either isolate themselves or pretend like “everything is fine” for fear of being judged or criticized – especially by non-pet owners.
HOW OTHERS REACT
Another problem is that friends and family don’t know what to say to someone who lost their pet. Oftentimes they resort to statements that are not helpful at all to the griever like:
“It was only a dog (cat, fish, lizard, etc).”
“Don’t feel bad you can always get another dog (cat, fish, lizard, etc).”
“Just give it time and you won’t remember your dog (cat, fish, lizard, etc) anymore.”
In fact these statements are not useful at all. They are almost cruel. They actually break a grieving pet owner’s heart into a million more pieces. This is why many grieving pet owners often choose not to share their pain with anyone. Non-pet owners just wouldn’t understand the special bond they shared with their pet. They wouldn’t understand the feeling of unconditional love they received on a daily basis. It’s just too hard to explain so pet grievers find it easier to just bottle it up inside.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Here are some things we need to keep in mind when losing a pet:
– In any household in which a pet has died, it is important to remember that each family member will have a different reaction to the loss. Each relationship to the pet was unique, so each person’s grief will be unique to them. This needs to be respected and honored. Never compare your reaction to that of another family member.
– Talk openly and honestly about the loss. Trying to hide your feelings will only make it confusing – especially if you have children.
– Don’t turn to short-term energy relieving behaviors (STERBs) – anger, alcohol, drugs, shopping, etc.- to deal with the loss. These only make you feel better for a little while and don’t help you to “complete” the relationship you had with your pet – i.e. face your grief.
– Remember that although your pet is no longer here physically, we continue to have an emotional and spiritual relationship with them. These aspects of the relationship need to be “complete” so memories of your pet don’t turn painful.
– Being in pain over the death of your pet is not an expression of love. Completing what was left unfinished (especially if your pet died tragically – hit by a car, etc.), will get you out of the pain. You will still have sad and happy memories, but those memories will no longer turn painful.
– Never use the word “guilt” or say that you “feel guilty.” Guilt implies intent to harm, and most pet owners would never do anything maliciously to harm their pet. A better descriptor would be “unresolved grief” – things you wish you had or hadn’t done with your pet. Unresolved grief is very different from guilt.
– Think of those things you wish you could apologize for (“I am sorry I yelled at you when I got home from a bad day at work”), forgive (“I forgive you for ripping up my favorite pair of shoes”) or wished you had said to your pet (“I loved how you used to greet me when I came home. It was the best feeling in the world”).
If you are having a difficult time, you are not alone. The Grief Recovery Method®, through their Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss, offers a structured action plan to help grieving pet owners discover and complete what was left emotionally unfinished and ultimately, have fond memories of your beloved pet not turn painful.
DEALING WITH PET LOSS WEBINAR
The FREE WEBINAR from The Grief Reiki® Academy will:
– Discover how society treats grieving pet owners.
– Better understand why it is so hard to lose a pet.
– Learn what to say and do (and what not to say and do) for a grieving pet owner.
Bottom line, grieve for your furry friend. Be sad.
Remember the time you spent with them. Hold them in your heart forever.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!