Give yourself permission to grieve. You’ve experienced a tremendous loss, a faithful companion who gave you unconditional love. It is normal after this loss to feel sad and worn down for a while. Take all the time you need to heal.
Understand that guilt often accompanies grief, especially when dealing with animals. Your pet couldn’t tell you that she was sick, so you may feel guilty for not taking her to the vet sooner. Or you may feel at fault if your pet was injured after escaping from the yard. Guilt is a reflection of how responsible you felt for the care of your pet; it is a human response to grief after this loss.
Find a special way to say good-bye to your pet. Have a family ritual
or ceremony celebrating his life and acknowledging his death. Write a letter, a poem, or a special tribute.
Pick a meaningful way to memorialize your pet. Make a scrapbook, plant a tree, donate your time or money to a worthy animal charity.
Find at least one person you can talk to openly about your loss. Share your feelings without censorship. Realize that family members or other loved ones may grieve differently or be in too much pain to support you. Recognize that you may need professional help to get through this.
Creatively express your feelings. Write down whatever you’re feeling in a journal, without criticism. You may choose to work out your emotions in clay, paint, pastels, etc. Celebrate the life you shared with your companion.
When you feel strong enough, think about helping others. Speak openly and honestly with your children. Join a pet loss support group. Volunteer at the Humane Society. Find an internet chat room for pet loss and bereavement.
Be especially good to yourself, because it takes a lot of energy to grieve. Try to eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest. Taking care of yourself physically can help in your emotional healing.
Each day, do a least one thing that brings you joy. Take a walk, garden, watch the sunset, listen to music, see a funny movie. And allow yourself to laugh! Laughter has great healing power.
If you decide to get another pet, do so only when you are ready. You will never be able to replace the pet you have lost; it takes time to emotionally invest in another.
Dr Lianna Titcombe
Pet Loss Support Group of Ottawa