When it comes to personal loss, there’s no such thing as “insignificant” grief – the pain of losing a pet can be just as intense as losing a friend or family member. After all, our pets become part of the family, and that’s what makes them so endearing. When a pet dies, you don’t just lose an animal. You lose a friend and the comforting presence of a loving companion. Here are a few tips that can make it just a little easier to cope with the loss of a pet:
Allow yourself time to grieve
Some people may believe that a pet’s death doesn’t warrant the full range of emotions one normally feels after the death of someone close. But it’s important to remember that the pain you’re feeling is an expression of the love you have for your pet, and the oppressive realization that death has created a void in your life. Slow things down, and give yourself time to work through the grief. Take time off from work, if necessary, and reach out to someone who understands how much you cared for your pet.
Address your physical needs
Don’t be surprised if you experience a loss of appetite, have trouble sleeping, or feel unmotivated. Those are natural reactions to the grieving process. Make sure you get the nutrients you need to stay healthy, and don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. If you’re tossing and turning, try getting to bed at the same time each night, and stick with that routine so your body is re-accustomed to a healthy sleep pattern. If it helps, do some light reading or meditate before going to bed – it can help you achieve a sense of peace and inner stillness. Take part in activities you enjoy; give your mind and body a break from the pain you’re feeling.
Closure – honor your pet
Consider holding a family internment ceremony at home during which everyone verbalizes their feelings. If you have children, encourage them to tell your pet how much he meant to them. It can be a cathartic experience, a healthy way to engage in emotional sharing, and an outlet for someone who has trouble expressing deeply-felt emotions. If you or a family member is having a difficult time coping with the grief, look into an online bereavement program that can help you heal or other excellent online bereavement resources. Remember, the sorrow that you are feeling is perfectly valid and needs to be expressed. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Practice a calming activity
If there’s an activity or daily routine you find reassuring, don’t neglect it. Anything that brings peace and spiritual reassurance at a time of profound loss should be embraced. It could be anything, from reading a favorite passage from the Bible to watching a TV program or movie you find emotionally uplifting. Exercise also has therapeutic value when you’re hurting. It activates endorphins, chemicals in the brain that produce a natural euphoric feeling. Finding a source of inner strength can help contextualize your loss, which is an important part of the healing process.
Getting a new pet
Think twice if your response to a pet’s death is to get a new one right away. That may not be advisable, because bringing a new pet home before you’ve worked through the grieving process can make the transition difficult. Consider waiting until you have the energy and motivation to become a pet parent once again. Grief is one of the strongest of all emotions and it needs an outlet, so don’t dismiss the need to grieve when a much-loved pet dies. Pets often have a powerfully-emotional hold on us, so don’t feel odd or uncomfortable about grieving over your loss or about asking for help with your grief.