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TEN TIPS FOR DEALING WITH PET LOSS
- Plan ahead. When you first bring home that ball of fur, it’s hard to imagine that there will come a day when you have to say goodbye. The reality is pets just don’t live as long as humans, so if you decide ahead of time how you want to handle end of life issues, such as euthanasia, dealing with remains and how to memorialize your pet, it is easier than when you are in the midst of grief and you are being pressed for decisions. It is also important to have advance directives in your will that will ensure your pets are provided for in the event of your untimely death.
- Tell yourself you’re not crazy. The loss of a relationship that has been a constant and significant part of your life may feel devastating – whether animal or human. After all, this relationship has been a source of comfort and companionship, unconditional love and acceptance, fun and joy. Your intense grief over this loss is normal and natural.
- Don’t let others tell you you’re crazy. People who do not understand the human/animal bond may say things like, “It’s just a dog (or cat).” The most important thing is to recognize that the loss of a beloved pet is a serious event that society does not always respect. You and your family have a right to your feelings which may include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
- Take care of yourself. Grieving is hard work. It depletes your energy and focus. Make sure you get the rest and nutrition you need, even when you feel distracted. Your concentration may be impaired, too, so you need to take extra care with driving and crossing the street. Grief is a normal process, and time really does heal.
- Seek out support to deal with your loss. You are not alone. Thousands of other pet owners have been in the same position. Veterinarians, pet service professionals or other pet owners can provide the resources and outlets you need to express your feelings.
- Celebrate your pet’s life. Some people find it helpful to write about their pet, put together a scrapbook or to hold a funeral service to mark the passing of their pet. You can put together your own ceremony or consult a professional pet funeral service if one is available in your area. This doesn’t make you a wacko; it gives you healthy expression for your grief.
- Help your children cope. Every person deals with grief in a different way and at a different pace. You know how much information your children are ready to handle about death and loss of a pet, but don’t underestimate their ability to understand. If you are honest about your own sorrow, it gives children the permission to express their own sadness.
- Help your other pets with the transition. Pets are very observant and no doubt they will notice the absence of a companion to whom they have grown attached. Give the surviving pets lots of extra attention and love to help them through this period. The love of these survivors will also help you heal.
- Give yourself time before getting a new pet. There will be no other pet like the one you’ve lost. A new pet should be obtained because you are ready to move forward and build a new relationship, not because you are mourning your loss and trying to fill the gap in your life.
- Help other people who are faced with the same loss. Join a pet loss support group to help others, help a rescue group with a gift to memorialize your pet or join a forum online to share your experiences.
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