Dogs are the furry members of our families that bring us endless amounts of love and joy. Unfortunately, they don’t have lifespans that are as long as humans. And when it is their time to pass on, it always leaves a devastating hole in our hearts and our homes. Dealing with the loss of a beloved pet is always hard. And those who own pets often feel like they’re burdening the grief alone because it’s not something that is easily understood by those people who’ve never had a pet of their own.
While it is never easy to process the loss of a pet, it’s something that all pet owners must face at some point. And like all other forms of grief and loss, there is a healing process that goes along with it. And here are some tips to helping yourself or others along the path to moving on.
1. Talking About It
Losing a pet is just as devastating a loss as any family member. You can’t fully heal from the loss if you don’t let yourself express what it is that you’re feeling. That is why it’s healthy to talk about it. Talk about the happy or silly times you shared with your pet, be honest about your struggles, tell a trusted friend or family member how much you miss your pet. Whatever it is that you’re feeling, don’t be afraid to let it out with someone you trust. Keeping it all inside just leads to trauma symptoms, like mood swings, irritability, or feelings of being overwhelmed or extremely sad. Just remember, it’s okay to not be okay.
2. Release Your Guilt
The biggest difference between the death of a pet and the death of a human family member is that your pet can’t express what they’re thinking or feeling. They can’t always let you know what is wrong with them. They can’t tell you how they want you to handle their care. They can’t tell you if they want to hang on and fight, or they just want to go peacefully. You have to make all the medical care decisions for them and hope that you’re doing right by them. This will definitely leave bereaved pet parents with feelings of guilt, wondering if they did enough for their pets or if they could’ve done more for them. Letting go of that guilt can be hard but you have to. You need to remember that you did the best that you could for your beloved pet, and you gave them the best life possible.
3. Take Your Time
Grief has no expiration date. Don’t listen to those people who say, “it was just an animal.” You know deep in your heart that your pet was more than an animal, they were family. You’re allowed to grieve them as such. Getting through the different stages of grief is an individual journey for everyone. Take your time and do what feels right for you. Don’t let someone talk you into getting a new pet straight away if you’re not ready. Similarly, don’t let someone shame you for wanting to adopt another pet and share your love with another little furry friend in need. We all grieve differently and we all will move on in our own time and our own way.