Coping with the Loss of a Pet

Intense Grief Over The Loss
of a Pet is Normal and Natural.

The loss of any companion animal, large or small, young or old, anticipated or not, can cause unimaginable sorrow and pain. The need to mourn can be complicated by well-intentioned but, ill-informed friends and relatives who urge “replacement” with a new puppy or kitty, as well as, various activities to keep one from “dwelling on the loss”. Many bereft people want to know what they can do to heal their broken hearts. Some people are concerned that their feelings are extreme and that they may never resume the life they knew before the death of their animal friend.

We now know that animal companion deaths can be as devastating as any other death of a family member. Some individuals report that the pain surpasses any they have experienced. It is important to remember the following when facing or after suffering the loss of the animal family member:

• For many, the loving bond is so great that substantial grief should be anticipated.

• Most people experience a similar type of grief, making support groups a valuable tool to healing.

• When children lose a pet, special consideration must be given to their manner of grieving.

• It helps to develop a standard response to misguided but well meaning friends and relatives.

• It is true that animal family members left behind frequently experience the loss and exhibit worrisome behavioral changes.

• In general, major decisions about acquiring another companion animal should not be made until one’s healing is such that the energy for a new relationship is found – it is impossible to replace the animal that has died.

• It is important to talk about one’s feelings, allow for crying, and try not to avoid the inevitable journey that the grief process entails.

When To Euthanize A Pet

Your veterinarian is the best judge of your pet’s physical condition, however, you are the best judge of the quality of your pet’s daily life. If your pet is in constant pain, is unreponsive to affection, unaware of it’s surroundings, and disinterested in life, a caring pet owner will probably choose to end the beloved companion’s suffering. It is truly the final act of love that you can show your pet.

How Do I Handle the Final Decision?

The final decision after a pet dies is what to do with the remains. There are several options available to the pet owner:

1. The animal hospital that has cared for the pet usually will dispose of the remains for a fee.

2. The pet cemetery is another popular choice since it can give the owner of the pet a sense of dignity, security, and permanence and owners often appreciate the serene surroundings of the gravesite.

3. Cremation is the one choice that allows you to handle your pet’s remains in a vairety of ways: bury them, scatter them in a favorite location, or keep them with you in a decorative urn. Most importatntly, the owner should make such a decision in advance, rather than when the pet dies and they are in the midst of grief.

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